Highland Travel Medicine

Pneumonia

Pneumonia

  is a serious respiratory illness that is most often caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumonia. This bacterium can also cause blood infections and meningitis. It is spread through close contact with infected people usually through respiratory droplets. The bacterial infection occurs throughout the world, but rates are higher in developing countries. In the United States, mostly children and older adults are at higher risk of this disease. Since 2000, there has been a vaccine available that has greatly decreased the incidence of pneumococcal infections in the United States. The risk for acquiring this infection in the traveler increases if there is an underlying medical condition (such as asthma, smoking, or diabetes) and if the traveler is very young or elderly. Symptoms include high fevers, lethargy, cough, bloody sputum, shortness of breath, stiff neck, and seizures. Diagnosis can be made with blood work or x-rays. Bacterial pneumonia is treatable with antibiotics.

Vaccination
There are two vaccines available. There is the PCV-7, the 70valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that is mostly used in children. It is part of the routine childhood vaccines in the United States. Typically the vaccine is given at 2, 4, and 6 months old and a booster at 12-15months. There is also a PPV23 vaccine which is generally recommended for all adults ≥65years old and for those age 2-64 years old with underlying medical conditions. The vaccine is a onetime dose for those patients older than 65years. However, if the patient does not have a spleen, has sickle cell anemia, kidney disease, blood disorders, cancers or other immunocompromising conditions, then a second dose is recommended five years after the first dose. Also, if an adult received the first PPV23 prior to turning 65years old, a second vaccine is recommended 5 years after the first. Common side effects are redness and soreness at the site of injection. Rarer side effects include fever and body aches.