May 8, 2017

Don’t get more than you bargained for this winter – protect your lungs from influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia infection

Depending on where you live in Australia, winter can be a great time of year with the days of searing heat and humidity of summer having passed. However, winter is also a time to be wary, as some of the most common and potentially life-threatening illnesses can sneak up on us during the colder months.

Each year, the flu, also known as influenza, is responsible for more than 3,000 deaths and an estimated 18,000 hospitalisations. More than 1.5 million work days are lost to the flu each year, and the virus costs the health system more than $85 million per annum. Although the flu is the best known winter condition, pneumonia (a broad term used to describe inflammatory lung infections caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi) is actually the most common. Pneumonia is a severe disease afflicting adults, which can leave people dangerously short of breath.

On a brighter note, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect against infection.

Step 1: Know your risk. Anyone, at any age, including the fit and healthy, can contract the flu or pneumococcal pneumonia. Both infections can be serious, and even life-threatening, especially for those considered at-risk – babies, children, Australians aged 65 and over, and people living with chronic illnesses such as lung disease, diabetes, heart, kidney and liver diseases.

Step 2: Check your arsenal. Vaccines are available for both influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. Better yet, if you’re aged 65 years and over, or at high risk of infection, you qualify for free vaccinations on the National Immunisation Program (NIP). So talk
to your doctor or pharmacist about protecting against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. It is important to note that these are different vaccinations – if you are vaccinated against one, this doesn’t mean you are vaccinated against the other.

Step 3: Brush up on the facts. Recent studies confirm that
the influenza vaccine can provide somewhere between 50 – 70% protection against infection. Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination can protect you against up to 23 different types of streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that commonly cause pneumococcal disease.

To learn how to protect against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia this winter speak to your doctor, pharmacist, visit www.lungfoundation.com.au/pneumonia or phone 1800 654 301.

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