Pneumonias can be caused by a variety of bacteria such as Staph, Strep, Klebsiela, as well as other bacteria and even other kinds of germs.
Pneumovax, the pneumonia vaccine or Pneumonia Shot, protects you from Strep Pneumonia only. Strep pneumonia was the most common and is one of the most serious forms of pneumonia. The vaccine was developed to protect susceptible people from catching this particular germ and developing the pneumonia that it causes.
Many other germs out there can cause pneumonia. These range from viruses, such as those responsible for the common cold, to the one that causes chicken pox. Some of these, like the chickenpox virus, can be treated with special antiviral medications. Most viral infections must run their course, as we do not have many antiviral agents for treatment. Some viral pneumonias, however, can be severe and may require hospitalization in order to maintain adequate breathing and oxygen supply.
As we noted previously, pneumonia can also be caused by bacterias like those mentioned above. These are treated with antibiotics. If the infection is severe, these will be administered in the hospital and the patient’s breathing and oxygen requirements will be supported too.
Additionally, pneumonia can be caused by tuberculosis and even some fungi. Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the dusty desert soil. It is called coccidiodomycosis when it infects us and can cause a serious pneumonia. Special antifungal medications may be needed to fight off these infections.
“Walking Pneumonia”, is the common term for a class we call “Atypical Pneumonias” and is caused by organisms such as Mycoplasma and Legionella. These respond quite well to certain antibiotics.
All pneumonias can be serious, some even life threatening. Pneumonias are infections of the lung tissue itself. They can be painful because they inflame and irritate the tender lining covering the lungs. They generally cause fevers, shortness of breath and productive coughs.
You have, luckily, been protected from one of the most common and more serious forms if you’ve had the “pneumonia shot,” but you may still come down with a pneumonia caused by the other germs. As we mentioned above, some of these can be serious.
Therefore, don’t hesitate to seek medical help, if you are ill with a fever and cough, especially if you are coughing up yellow, brown, green, or reddish sputum.
Remember too, we now know that the pneumonia shot is good for seven years, at which time you will need to be re-vaccinated to continue your protection.
Who should be vaccinated? Generally speaking, people with compromised pulmonary systems like those with asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis. People with compromised immune systems also benefit from the vaccination. These would include people without a spleen, those on immunosuppressant medications, or those with HIV. Seniors are, in general, more susceptible to serious infection, and usually benefit from being vaccinated.
Talk to your doctor about whether you need the pneumonia shot.
* This information is intended for educational purposes only and not for definitive diagnosis or care. Always consult your doctor for health related problems.