Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pneumonia Shot: Could It Save Your Life?

Former first lady Barbara Bush's hospitalization this week with a respiratory condition is spotlighting health experts' recommendations that all Americans 65 years of age and older get a pneumonia vaccination, as well as a flu shot.

Bush, 88, was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday, according to a release issued by former President George H.W. Bush's office.

"She is in great spirits, has already received visits from her husband and family, and is receiving fantastic care," the statement read.

Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic lower respiratory diseases are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. — accounting for about 138,080 cases each year — behind heart disease (which kills 597,689 Americans) and cancer (574,743 deaths). Pneumonia, a viral or bacterial infection in the lungs, accounts for about 60,000 of those deaths each year and is of particular concern for older adults and people with chronic illnesses or an impaired immune system.

"Many pneumonia deaths are in people with concurrent major diseases such as cancer," Norman H. Edelman, M.D., senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association, tells Newsmax Health. "The overwhelming majority [42,702] are age 65 and older."

Influenza, which is a common cause of pneumonia, is responsible for about 226,000 hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths annually. Older Americans account for nearly 90 percent of those deaths.

The CDC and many health experts recommend an annual flu shot to prevent influenza and pneumonia. They also urge seniors get vaccinated against pneumonia, as well as people at high risk of contracting respiratory infections — including nursing home residents and those with chronic illnesses such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney disorders, sickle cell anemia, or diabetes.

"Get a flu shot every year to prevent seasonal influenza," says Dr. Edelman. "The flu is a common cause of pneumonia, so preventing the flu is a good way to prevent pneumonia! Get vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia if you are at high risk of getting this type of pneumonia."

There are two different types of pneumonia vaccine. One protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria — called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). The other is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine — PCV13 (brand name Prevnar 13) — which is typically given to infants and toddlers, but was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults 50 and older. The vaccines are made using dead bacteria and cannot make you sick.

The vaccines prevent serious blood, brain, and lung infections, many of which are resistant to antibiotics and other treatments once they take hold. In the U.S., more people die from pneumococcal disease each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

Studies show that the flu shot can be up to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations for both influenza and pneumonia in those over 65. Many health insurance plans cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you.

In addition to vaccination, experts recommend the following ways to reduce your risk of pneumonia:

    Wash your hands frequently.
    Don't smoke, because tobacco damages your lung's ability to fight off infection, and smokers have been found to be at higher risk of getting pneumonia.
    Be aware of any respiratory symptoms that linger more than a few days after having a cold or the flu, since pneumonia often follows respiratory infections.
    Practice good health habits — a healthy diet, rest, regular exercise, managing stress —to help boost your immune system and help you fight off viruses, bacteria, and respiratory illnesses. Such behaviors can help promote faster recovery from a cold, the flu, or other respiratory illness.
    If you have children, talk to their doctor about the Hib vaccine, which prevents pneumonia in children from Haemophilus influenzae type b, and a drug called Synagis (palivizumab), which is given young children to prevent pneumonia.

Treatment for pneumonia and other respiratory infections varies, depending on the cause. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for bacterial pneumonia, while rest and an increased intake of fluids can help people recovery more quickly from viral pneumonia. Over-the-counter medications are best to treat fever and cough.

Barbara Bush and her husband live in Houston and make frequent public appearances. Last week, they honored a Houston businessman with a Points of Light Award, a volunteer service award started by the former president.

In 2010, Bush was admitted to the hospital after having a mild relapse of Graves disease, a thyroid condition for which she was treated in 1989. She also had heart surgery in March 2009 and was hospitalized in November 2008, when she underwent surgery for a perforated ulcer.

Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.

Bush's 89-year-old husband, the nation's oldest living former president, George H.W. Bush was released in January 2013 after he spent nearly two months at Houston Methodist Hospital, being treated for a bronchitis-related cough and other health issues.

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