June 5, 2018
rarely know it by name, but pneumococcal disease kills more Americans than all
other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. “[Pneumococcal bacteria] cause
lung infections (pneumonia), brain infections [meningitis], sinusitis, blood
infections, and ear infections,” said Elizabeth C. Knapp, MD, an Austin
pediatrician. “Early in my pediatric career, I cared for a 3-year-old girl who
had an ear infection — her crying did not improve with the antibiotics
[because] the bacteria had spread to her brain.” The bacteria can cause very
serious conditions. “People die from pneumococcal diseases,” she said.
is one of the bacteria’s most severe illnesses. According to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 900,000 Americans
contract pneumonia each year and as many as 7 percent of those sick enough to
be hospitalized die from it.
In 2013, 3,700 Americans died from pneumococcal meningitis
and bacteremia. Two years later, a 2015 CDC report
said 95 percent of pneumococcal deaths in the U.S. were adults. Worldwide,
about 500,000 children younger than five die from pneumococcal illnesses each
year, making it one of the top killers of young people, according to the World
vary depending upon which pneumococcal disease strikes. They include high
fever, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, and vomiting. After the disease
strikes, the illness can cause hearing loss, brain damage, or death.
vaccines prevent these complications for both children and adults. Physicians
can advise which shot is best for a given patient. A four-dose series is standard
for children; a two-dose series is standard for adults.
In the 1940s, physicians believed antibiotics could cure
pneumococcal bacterial infections, so there was little call for a vaccine. However,
some people still died after treatment. The first vaccine was introduced in
1977, but it did not adequately protect children. However, a childhood vaccine
introduced in 2000 has caused a nearly 80-percent drop in invasive pneumococcal
disease among U.S. children.
more information on pneumococcal
diseases and vaccinations on
the TMA website.
This release is part of a
monthly TMA series highlighting contagious diseases that childhood and adult
vaccinations can prevent. TMA designed the series to inform patients of the
facts about these diseases, and to help them understand the benefits of
vaccinations to prevent illness. Visit the TMA website to see plans to prevent
pneumococcal disease and how funding is used to
increase vaccination rates.
TMA is the largest state
medical society in the nation, representing more than 51,000 physician and
medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county
medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to
improve the health of all Texans. Be Wise — ImmunizeSM is a joint
initiative led by TMA physicians and medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It
is funded in 2018 by the TMA Foundation thanks to H-E-B, TMF Health Quality
Institute, Pfizer Inc., and gifts from physicians and their families.
Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical
Brent Annear (512)
370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Marcus Cooper (512)
370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
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