• More than 750,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal disease in Ireland
• Adults with underlying health conditions and those over 65 are eligible to receive free pneumococcal vaccine as part of the National Immunisation Programme
Killarney GP Dr. Gary Stack is encouraging people over the age of 65, and those with a weakened immune system or underlying health condition, to ask their doctor about ‘pneumo’
Invasive pneumococcal disease, more generally known as ‘pneumo’, is a major cause of illness and death in Ireland, particularly among the very young, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
Of those who develop an invasive infection:
- 1 IN 4 will get Pneumonia
- 1 IN 4 will get Meningitis
- 1 IN 10 will die
A pneumococcal infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria which is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or close contact. The bacteria can be carried in the nose and throat without doing any harm but sometimes they can invade the lungs and bloodstream. This can cause many types of illness that range from mild to very severe, including pneumonia, meningitis, sinus, ear, bone and blood infections.
More than 750,000 people aged 65 and older are at risk of contracting pneumococcal in Ireland, ahead of the traditional winter vaccination season, GP Dr Gary Stack is urging people to know the facts about pneumococcal disease and how it can be prevented.
The pneumococcal vaccine is free of charge as part of the National Immunisation Programme for the over 65s and at-risk groups, such as people with:
- Chronic lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease
- Chronic neurological disease
- Coeliac disease
- Down Syndrome
- Cochlear implants or are about to get cochlear implants
- Immune deficiency because of a disease or treatment, including patients receiving chemotherapy
- HIV infection
- Absent spleen or a non-functioning spleen
- CSF leaks, either congenital or complicating skull fractures or neurosurgery; and
- Intracranial shunt.
Dr Gary Stack will be speaking on the subject at 1pm on Friday the 25th of November at SeniorTimes LIVE! in City Hall – Admission is FREE
A patient can get the pneumococcal vaccine at the same time as influenza vaccine
Pneumococcal infection is responsible for 50% of community acquired pneumonia and bacteraemia where the overall mortality rate can be as high as 25%. It can also cause a wide variety of other infections including sinusitis, osteomyeltitis (bone infection), bronchitis (lung infection) and otitis media (ear infection).
Speaking about the importance of contacting a GP for information about pneumococcal disease, GP, Dr. Gary Stack said: “As we approach the Winter months, when we will see a return to family gatherings and group settings at Christmas time, it is more important than ever to be up to date on your vaccinations. As we enter into a prime time for those with weakened immune systems to catch infection that can cause serious illness, winter represents a significant risk with the return to normal activities, the need to be protected while engaging with society is more important than ever.
“’Pneumo’ or pneumococcal disease is a major cause of illness and death in Ireland, particularly among the very young, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. Pneumo disease is actually a year-round disease, meaning people can be impacted at any time, but it’s usually associated with more wet and damp conditions, but some often mistake it for being ‘just’ a winter disease. Unlike COVID-19 and influenza, which are both viruses, pneumo is a bacterium.”
Healthcare professionals play an important role in educating patients about disease awareness and vaccination. The sharing of vaccine information by healthcare professionals, such as GPs, nurses and pharmacists, is essential to encourage the prevention of pneumococcal disease.
Dr. Stack continued: “As we’ve come to understand, just like COVID-19 and influenza, pneumo can also be prevented by vaccination. It’s therefore important that anyone who is eligible for the vaccine as part of the National Immunisation Programme, gets the information they need regarding pneumococcal disease and considers getting the pneumococcal vaccine along with the flu and COVID vaccines. I would encourage anyone who falls within a vulnerable category to speak to their GP to find out more information about the prevention of pneumococcal disease.”
The #KnowPneumo campaign aims to raise awareness about pneumococcal disease and its potential to cause serious illness. A number of patient organisations support the initiative including Age Action, Diabetes Ireland, the Asthma Society of Ireland and Croí.
To find out more about the campaign, check out www.pneumo.ie or follow #KnowPneumo online.