An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or their complications each year. During August’s National Immunization Awareness Month, the American Lung Association reminds adults of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccination against potentially serious lung diseases such as influenza (the flu) and pneumococcal pneumonia.
As a preventive healthcare measure, vaccines work by teaching the body's immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses or bacteria before getting an infection, and reduce the chance of getting certain infectious diseases. Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person, which means that if one person in a community gets an infectious disease, they can spread it to others.
Different than a bad cold, influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia are potentially serious infectious diseases that may be prevented by vaccines.
Pneumococcal Pneumonia, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, is often spread through coughing. The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia can come quickly and may include high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious virus that is usually spread through coughing or sneezing. Symptoms can impact the entire body and may include fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion.13
“Older adults and those with weakened immune systems or certain chronic health conditions—like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—are especially vulnerable to infectious disease,” Albert Rizzo, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association said. “In fact, for adults 65 and older living with COPD, the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia is 7.7 times higher than their healthy counterparts, and those with asthma are at 5.9 times greater risk.”
The American Lung Association, in partnership with Pfizer, is urging adults to talk with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations, with more information available at Lung.org/pneumococcal and Lung.org/influenza, or call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.