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AAFA: Less than one-third of people vaccinated against pneumococcal disease

Half the respondents to a recent survey are aware of what pneumococcal disease is, but less than one-third were vaccinated against the condition. The poll, conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), revealed a significant proportion of at-risk respondents were not immunized against pneumococcal disease. 

When pneumococcal bacteria spreads to the lungs it can cause pneumonia, a serious illness that is particularly dangerous for anyone with asthma. More than seven out of ten (72%) people responding to the survey had asthma, yet less than one-third (29%) were immunized against pneumococcal disease. Almost eight in ten (78%) respondents knew asthma increased the risk of pneumococcal disease, yet only half of those polled knew what pneumococcal disease is.

What is Pneumococcal Disease?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. Children under the age of two are at the highest risk from the condition, although adults over the age of 65, adults with weak immune systems, smokers and those with chronic lung diseases are also vulnerable. It is spread from person-to-person by direct contact with saliva or mucus. It is possible to carry the disease in the nose or throat without becoming ill. 

Symptoms of pneumococcal disease include difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, sweats, chills, fever, a stiff neck, and confusion. The AAFA guidelines advise anyone experiencing a combination of these symptoms to call a doctor immediately, as it could mean the have pneumonia, meningitis or bloodstream infection (sepsis). 

How is Pneumococcal Disease Treated?

The AAFA advises everyone with asthma to get the pneumococcal vaccine, of which there are two varieties available. Prevnar13 (PCV13) is suitable for infants, children and adults, while Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23) is suitable for children and adults. 

For patients who do contract pneumococcal disease, beta-lactam antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or cefotaxime, are usually the first form of treatment. However, other antibiotics may be used depending on the patient and whether or not the disease is antibiotic resistant. Other possible treatment options include fluoroquinolones such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and vancomycin antibiotics.