Vaccination can prevent adult pneumonia

Vaccination can prevent adult pneumonia

As per the last Global Burden of Disease estimates, 2.6 million people lost their lives to pneumonia in 2017. While concerted efforts are being made towards reducing the deaths among children, many countries, including India, are struggling with increasing incidence of deaths among adults due to pneumonia. Pneumonia is a leading infectious disease killer and while a lot of light has been shed on pneumonia among children under the age of five, the focus and awareness remains limited about pneumonia in adults.

Pneumonia, is essentially a lung infection which leads to the inflammation of the lungs air sacs. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi; the air sacs present in the lungs are filled with either pus or fluids leading to their inflammation. Pneumonia can affect both children & adults yet more often than not adults fail to recognise the symptoms of pneumonia as it can easily be mistaken for a flu.

The symptoms of pneumonia can sometimes be so mild that one can barely notice them and sometimes they can be so severe that one might need hospitalisation. Some of the common symptoms of pneumonia are cough (with greenish, yellowish or bloody mucus), fever, sweating, shaking skills, shallow breathing, chest pain, loss of appetite and confusion among the elderly. India has the highest mortality and morbidity due to Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) among adults aged more than 50 years. It then becomes important for adults to be aware of the symptoms so that they can detect it early on and take necessary actions.

Once diagnosed, it is recommended that the patients strictly adhere to the treatment plan suggested by the doctor for proper recovery. While managing the disease is essential, it is more important to bear in mind that pneumonia is preventable. Getting a pneumococcal vaccine is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of contracting pneumonia.

Vaccination protects an individual against pneumococcal bacteria and reduces the chances of contracting the disease. It has been associated with improved survival rates, minimal risk of respiratory failure and other severe complications and in case of adults hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia, shorter in-patient stays. This type of vaccine is effective in preventing not only the invasive pneumococcal disease and but also other forms of pneumococcal disease, including presumptive pneumococcal pneumonia.

It is a fact that among adults, it is the elderly who are the most vulnerable. However, besides the elderly, there are other groups who are at high-risk of contracting this infectious disease. These are people with chronic conditions like diabetes and COPD, smokers and malnourished adults. The vaccination is highly recommended for individuals in these high-risk groups.

Pneumonia among adults is a huge health burden in the country. Vaccination of the adult population needs to be a key component of a healthy aging strategy, since there is already convincing evidence that this approach can have an important impact on morbidity, mortality and quality of life.

-By Dr. Vivek Nangia (HOD & Directior, Pulmonology/Chest & Sleep Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.

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