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What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia, also known as Pneumococcal Disease, is an infection that is caused by the Streptococcus Pneumoniae bacterium. Pneumonia can often come as a complication of the flu or at other times when a traveller may have a weakened immune system. It can cause an infection in the ears, sinuses, or lungs. In extreme cases of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease, the infection can lead to brain damage or even death. Pneumonia is spread via person-to-person contact.
The main symptoms of Pneumonia are either ear, sinus, or lung infections. Ear infections can lead to sore ears and fever, while sinus infections can include a plugged nose or headache. Symptoms of a lung infection caused by Pneumonia may include difficulty breathing and the coughing up of thick mucus. For very young children, the first symptom of Pneumonia will often be a high fever. That can then expand to include a stiff neck, coughing, loss of appetite, vomiting, and crying.
Children under the age of five and seniors over 65 are most at risk of contracting the infection. Those with weakened immune systems from blood disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic organ disease, and HIV may also be at increased risk. These groups in particular should check with their Passport Health Travel Medicine Specialist to see if they should receive the Pneumonia vaccine.
What Is The Pneumonia Vaccine?
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has approved the use of several Pneumonia vaccinations. The vaccine you receive will differ based on age and other risk factors.
The Pneumonia Pneu-C-13 vaccination is part of the routine immunization schedule for all Canadian children and infants. Most Canadians will have received a three or four dose schedule prior to their first birthday.
Adult travellers – especially those 65 years of age or older or those who have immune conditions that could make them vulnerable to Pneumonia – should receive a single dose of the Pneu-P-23 vaccine. The PHAC also recommends one lifetime re-immunization of the Pneu-P-23 vaccine for those most at risk of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease.
The Pneumonia vaccination is available at every Passport Health’s Canadian travel clinic locations. Make an appointment with your Travel Medicine Specialist to see if you may require a the Pneumonia vaccination or a booster shot.
Additional Ways to Prevent Pneumonia
The most effective way to prevent Pneumonia is to get vaccinated. Additional prevention measures include:
- Practice good hygiene and handwashing techniques
- Get the influenza/flu shot each year
- Don’t smoke as it weakens your lungs’ ability to ward off respiratory diseases such as Pneumonia
- Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet in order to maintain a strong immune system
Do I Need to Look Out for Pneumonia?
Pneumonia occurs around the world, including in Canada where the PHAC reports nearly 3,000 cases of the disease each year.
Travellers may be at particular risk if they are spending time in crowded environments or are having close contact with children who have not been vaccinated as part of routine immunization schedules. There is also a higher risk of being infected with Pneumonia during the winter and early spring, though the disease occurs year-round in tropical climate countries.
Make an appointment with your Passport Health Travel Medicine Specialist if you’d like to discuss the Pneumonia vaccine and any other travel related queries.