Posts Tagged ‘pneumococcal disease’

What do Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, James Brown and Jim Henson have in common?

They all died as a result of pneumonia.

Most people are not all that surprised when they hear of an older individual dying of pneumonia, even if they are celebrities. In fact, it is often called “the old man’s friend” because the inflammation that occurs in the lungs as a condition of pneumonia can often shorten the suffering of those who are already close to death.

However, even in a well developed  country like the United States, with all our advanced medical care, pneumonia is still one of the most common types of pneumococcal disease there is, infecting about 900,000 Americans each year and resulting in as many as 400,000 hospitalizations.  But it’s not just old people who die of pneumonia.  The truth is, pneumococcal disease doesn’t really discriminate. As many as 7% of people who contract pneumococcal pneumonia will die and this disease infects the young, the old, the healthy, the sick, the poor and the wealthy.

This is why vaccines are such an important preventive measure in the fight against pneumococcal disease.

12 Pneumococcal InfographicFortunately, there are vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia, and that’s a good thing considering there are more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria. While it is not possible to include all of the 90 different serotypes into one pneumococcal vaccine, the two vaccines that are available and approved for use in the U.S. protect against the serotypes that are most likely to cause invasive disease.

By invasive disease we mean the serious diseases that can occur when the bacteria invades parts of the body that are normally free of germs.  See, besides pneumonia, pneumococcus can also cause other types of infections too.  Some are less severe, like ear and sinus infections, while others are much more severe and invasive such as bacteremia, which occurs when there is an infection in the bloodstream, and meningitis, which occurs when the bacteria invades the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord.  When invasive pneumococcal diseases occurs, it is usually very severe, requiring treatment in a hospital and often causing death.

As recent as 2013, there were an estimated 3,700 deaths in the U.S. from pneumococcal meningitis and bacteremia and 90% of these invasive cases occurred in adults. There are also about 2,000 cases of serious pneumococcal disease in children under the age of five in the U.S. each year.

Unfortunately, despite the availability of effective vaccines, an examination of the “State of the ImmUnion” reveals that we are not as prepared as we could be here in the U.S..

We know that most pneumococcal deaths in the U.S. are in adults, yet 67 million adults remain at risk because they are unvaccinated.

Read more…

Studies Provide Evidence of Vaccine Safety And Efficacy

October 11, 2013 17 comments

There are a lot of reasons why I love vaccines, but most importantly it’s because they save lives.  However, my appreciation of vaccines has also helped to elevate my appreciation of science.  This week has been another perfect example.  News coverage of several recent studies out this week help to illustrate the benefit of vaccines and provide further evidence of their efficacy.

Reduction in Pneumococcal Disease

At a IDWeek conference meeting earlier this week, researchers presented preliminary data and conclusions from a soon-to-be published study regarding the efficacy of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.   MedPage Today covered the conference and reported that rapid uptake of the vaccine led to substantial reductions in invasive and noninvasive pneumococcus-related outcomes across all age groups after only 2 years.  Vaccination was tied to a 59% reduction in invasive pneumococcal disease-related hospitalizations in children younger than 5 years old, and a 25% reduction in related hospitalizations in adults.

The FDA approved the 13-valent version of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for use in pediatric patients 6 months to 5 years old back in 2010.  The new vaccine replaced a seven-valent version of the vaccine by adding protection against six additional strains of bacteria which accounted for 62% of cases of invasive pneumococcal disease not covered by the previous vaccine.

The study pointed to the “substantial herd immunity that was achieved,” by pointing to the 90% reduction of total invasive pneumococcal disease that occurred in older children and adults who were not immunized.  In other words, community immunity is even helping to protect those who are not vaccinated.

Image of unvaccinated child with varicella lesions in various stages.  (Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Image of unvaccinated child with varicella lesions in various stages. (Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Dramatic Decline in Incidence of Chicken Pox

Another development we’ve seen in regards to vaccine efficacy relates to the implementation of a two-dose varicella vaccination program which began in 2006.  According to study findings published in Pediatrics this week, the incidence of varicella (also know as chicken pox) has decreased across all age groups since the double dose vaccination program took effect.  Additionally, hospitalizations have declined by more than 40% during 2006 to 2010 compared with 2002 to 2005, and more than 85% compared with 1995 to 1998.   Read more…

World Pneumonia Day 2012 Reminds Us There’s Still Work to Do

November 13, 2012 2 comments

Tackling the Deadliest Disease for the World’s Poorest Children

Former First Lady, and Every Child By Two co-founder, Rosalynn Carter believes every child deserves a chance at a 5th birthday.  That is why she is asking you to support The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia and their efforts to raise awareness about the toll of pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of children.  Today, World Pneumonia Day 2012, we’re all called to get involved and advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat and help prevent this deadly illness.

Pneumonia: Word’s Leading Killer of Children Under Age 5

Despite a recent decline in the global number of child deaths, pneumonia still claimed 1.3 million lives last year alone.  Children of all ages, but particularly those under age five, are vulnerable to respiratory infections that can lead to life-threatening pneumonia.  However, pneumonia is not a single disease. It is a condition caused by many different bacteria or viral attacks which can lead to severe breathing difficulties, lung damage and often internal bleeding.

Sadly, nearly one in every five child deaths around the globe can be attributed to pneumonia – a disease in which the majority of cases are preventable and treatable.  And more than 99 percent of child deaths from pneumonia occur in the developing world, where access to life-saving interventions is out of reach for most children.

What Can Be Done

According to the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP), child pneumonia deaths could be reduced by two-thirds if three interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia were scaled up to reach 90 percent of the world’s children.  These interventions include breastfeeding and vaccination to help strengthen the immune system, and case management to improve early detection, isolate infections, and improve access to, and administration of, appropriate antibiotics.  Read more…

In Recognition of World Pneumonia Day

November 12, 2010 7 comments

It’s worth the poke to protect the world’s children.

By Shannon Duffy Peterson

A life changing event – one involving your children – will make any parent regret what they could have done. 

I have firsthand experience of this as I held my daughter Abigale in my arms while she died in 2001 of our world’s biggest vaccine-preventable killer of children, pneumococcal disease.  Abigale was just shy of her 6th birthday.

My name is Shannon Duffy Peterson and I am a disease prevention advocate for Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs) and a parent of four children.  My youngest are at home in Sleepy Eye, MN, and my oldest, Abigale, is up in heaven with her grandparents.

In 2001, my five-year-old daughter became a statistic when she died of a vaccine preventable disease.  Abigale became infected with chickenpox and, while battling that disease, she became infected with the pneumococcal bacteria.

When our children were born, my husband, DuWayne, and I were adamant about vaccinating our children.  We wanted our children to be protected against everything.  We wanted healthy children.  At that time, we had a pediatrician who did not push vaccinations and did not recommend the most recent vaccines available.  Consequently, my children did not have their chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccinations.

February 18, 2001, began as a normal Sunday.

We took the children to Sunday school, went to church together, played throughout the day, dancing with them to music and then relaxing with them before bedtime by playing a board game.  Abigale said she suddenly wasn’t feeling well and had a headache.  We had her lie down, took her temperature, it was 101.5, and gave her some Motrin.

She started to vomit up the medicine.  We thought she had the flu.  We thought this was strange because she’d had the same illness and a sinus infection two weeks earlier, but she was in kindergarten and we knew of the many germs the kids pass around.  We became alarmed when a rash developed all over her body that we had never seen before, but suspected it to be a high fever rash.  I called the emergency room and was told it was a flu going around with high fevers, vomiting, and diarrhea and to just treat the fever alternately with Motrin and Tylenol and a tepid bath.

Abigale was tired and we put her to bed planning to check on her quite frequently but hoping she would sleep off the flu.  Throughout the night we kept changing her bedding, bathing her to break the fever, even though she seemed pretty lethargic, and ended up sleeping with her to comfort her.

We awoke later to her crying for “Mommy,” as she had fallen out of bed while attempting to make it to the potty.  It was then, while cleaning her up, that my husband noticed the tremendous blotches on her skin and said “This is not normal and we have to get her to the emergency room right away”.  We woke up our little boy, got them both in the truck, and drove as fast as we could the 21 miles to New Ulm.  We called the hospital on the way to say we were coming and prayed for the best.

I sat in the back with the children, comforting Abigale.  When she said to me, “Mommy I hurt so bad all over”, I assured her it was from the sickness and held her in my arms the best that I could while we were all buckled up.  Those were the last words I would ever hear from my beautiful little girl.  She died in my arms while we were driving.  When we arrived at the hospital they called a code blue and attempted for one hour to revive her.  Her heart never started and they were breathing for her.

She was pronounced dead at 7:20am Monday, February 19th.

Our hearts broke that day as our son, Abigale’s little brother, witnessed all this and we had to tell him that his playmate, his bedtime companion, had died and there was nothing Mommy and Daddy or the doctors could do to save her.

Two hours after we arrived home from saying goodbye to our first born, our son started to experience some of the same symptoms as his sister and I rushed him to the clinic.  They got us in immediately and started running tests.  While we were waiting for results, Samuel, our son, started to vomit.  I couldn’t believe this was happening all over again and was holding him on the floor of the doctor’s office when our pediatrician came in with Abby’s preliminary autopsy results, stating that she’d had overwhelming sepsis caused by streptococcus pneumonia, congenital asplenia (absence of a spleen) and hemorrhagic adrenal glands.

While my daughter’s death happened quite quickly and I wasn’t able to save her by rushing to the hospital, I was able to save my son of the same ramifications by hospitalizing him directly after her death.

My world changed in those life altering 3 days.

I now understand the importance of vaccines and how children’s lives depend on them.  I am asking all parents to make sure all kids are kept healthy and to vaccinate children.  If we do this, we will save lives.  It is our responsibility, parents and medical professionals, to protect our children.

The vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease is now widely available in the US, but imagine if you are a parent in an under developed country, where vaccines are hard to come by, and calling a doctor or nurse for advice while your child’s disease rages is something you cannot do.  What happened to me in 2001 is still happening to thousands of parents every day in the poorest parts of the world where the pneumococcal vaccine is still not available.  Making this vaccine available has got to be one of the top priorities in global child health.   No child and no parent should have to endure the devastating effects of a disease that can be prevented with a vaccine that costs just $10.

Please support World Pneumonia Day on November 12.  Go to to find out what you can do to make a difference.  Help us vaccinate the world’s children and save their lives, too.

We would like to thank Shannon Duffy Peterson for sharing her personal story here on Shot of Prevention in an effort to fight pneumonia and save a child on World Pneumonia Day.

A video of Shannon telling her own story is available at

Let’s Not Let Down Our Guard on H1N1

December 7, 2009 2 comments

By Dr. Christopher J Harrison MD, FAAP

[Editor’s note-Although it seems that cases of H1N1 influenza may be slowing down, it’s important to still be vigilant in protecting ourselves and our families. I wanted to share some very helpful guidelines from a physician who wanted to help spread the message about a dangerous trend: secondary infection of pneumococcal disease from H1N1 flu. Please take a second and read these guidelines from Dr. Christopher J Harrison MD, FAAP, Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital, University of Missouri at Kansas City.]

Are there still things we should be doing to protect our families, despite the recent decline in the intense 2009 H1N1 influenza activity, and stories about the virus and its complications no longer dominating the nightly news?

There is at least a 50-50 chance that there will be another wave of intense 2009 H1N1 activity after the first of the year. Some immunizing centers are opening up eligibility for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to include all persons not yet immunized. If our family members are not yet immunized to 2009 H1N1 influenza, be vigilant for when this option is available to those without high risk in our area.
Any family members who have not received seasonal influenza vaccine should get it now. It is unclear if seasonal influenza will occur in the same months as in most years (December through April). But it makes sense to get as much protection as possible given that it is likely at least one seasonal influenza strain will arise this winter.
It is clear that many severe influenza outcomes are due to secondary bacterial pneumonia. This is caused nearly equally by MRSA (a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to some antibiotics) and pneumococcus. Much pneumococcal pneumonia can be prevented by pneumococcal vaccines.
Figure out if you should get the pneumococcal vaccine. Most children 2 years old who has risk factors for pneumococcal disease, (see item 5 below or click here). This vaccine is as safe as a regular “tetanus shot”, is relatively inexpensive, and provides potential protection for up to 5 years.
~70 million known candidates have not yet received the pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23) (National Health Interview Survey, 2007). Candidates for PP23 are in groups that would not surprise most of us. They are those >65 years old, or with a cochlear implant or spinal fluid leaks, or chronic illnesses (lung, heart, kidney, blood, or liver disease) or a weakened immune system (transplant recipients, those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, people without functioning spleens or taking immune suppressing drugs), or adults asthmatics or smokers.
Waiting until our family members are sick is too late for vaccines. Do a vaccine inventory for both influenza vaccines and both pneumococcal vaccines. Then seek out the vaccines they need. It is better to prevent than to try to treat disease. So do it now.