People diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma undergo medical treatments that can compromise their already weakened immune system. This leaves them even more susceptible to developing additional illnesses such as pneumonia or the flu. When being treated at a mesothelioma center, immunizations are offered to patients before they start their treatments to help prevent them from getting sicker. These vaccines are usually administered two weeks prior to starting treatments.
Pneumonia is a specific type of lung infection that inflames the air sacs in the lung and causes them to fill with fluid or purulent material. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. There is a vaccination for the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in the U.S., which is caused by the streptococcus bacteria.
The symptoms of pneumonia can be mild to severe depending on the organism involved, your age, and your overall health. Some of the common symptoms of pneumonia are the same as those of a cold or the flu, but tend to last longer. Chest pain when breathing or coughing, a productive cough, fatigue, fever, sweating, shaking chills, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea are all possible symptoms of pneumonia.
Most kinds of pneumonia are contagious. Both viral and bacterial pneumonia can be spread by inhaling airborne droplets from a sneeze or a cough. It is estimated that about 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, and about 5-7% of those infected die from the illness.
Vaccinations for pneumococcal diseases are recommended for all adults over age 65. There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines available in the U.S.: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine- PCV13 or Prevnar13, and Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine- PPSV23 or Pneumovax. PCV13 is recommended for all children younger than 2 years old, all adults 65 years or older who have not been previously, and some people with certain medical conditions. PPSV23 is recommended for all adults 65 years old and older, for some people of any age who have certain medical conditions, and for adults who smoke. PPSV23 is recommended to be given at least one year after the dose of PCV13 or Prevnar13.
The pneumococcal vaccine can protect against other diseases caused by the pneumococcal bacteria, such as meningitis, ear and sinus infections, as well as blood poisoning or sepsis. Pneumonia can affect anyone, but two groups are at the highest risk are children aged two or younger, and people aged 65 or older. Anyone who may have a weakened immune system, like mesothelioma patients, are also at risk.
Any caregiver over age 65 should check with their physician about getting vaccinated. Other caregivers who smoke or have other chronic conditions should also check with their physicians about getting the vaccination.
Caregivers need to be reminded that they need to care for themselves as well as their loved ones during this stressful time.