Another vaccine urged

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

State health officials are urging Virginia residents to get the pneumonia vaccine, saying that bacterial pneumonia has been identified as a complication in some severe and fatal H1N1 flu cases.

“In addition to the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines, the pneumococcal vaccination is a good idea for those with health conditions that put them at higher risk for complications and illness,” said State Health Commissioner Karen Remley.

In a typical year, most serious pneumonia infections occur in people age 65 and older. But in the 2009 flu pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an increase in pneumonia infections in younger people.

Most of those with high-risk conditions for bacterial pneumonia are also at high risk for severe complications from influenza. The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all people 65 years of age and older and for persons 2 through 64 years of age with certain high-risk conditions.

Risk factors include cardiovascular or lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, chronic liver disease, cerebrospinal fluid leak, a cochlear implant, a weakened immune system due to illnesses such as HIV infection or leukemia, immunosuppressive therapy, a removed or dysfunctional spleen, residing in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, cigarette smoking and asthma, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

A pneumonia vaccine may be given at the same time as influenza vaccine, and is available at many private physician’s offices and pharmacies.

The CDC also is warning consumers of a fraudulent e-mail referencing a CDC-sponsored state vaccination program that requires users to create a “personal H1N1 vaccination profile,” according to a press release. The message asks users to create the profile on the www.cdc.gov Web site, and states it is required for all people 18 and older.

However, the CDC has not implemented such a program, and users who open the e-mail or click on the link are at risk of having viruses installed on their computer. The CDC reminds users not to follow unsolicited links and not to open or respond to unsolicited e-mail messages.