Vaccination is an essential and most important step to prevent pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccine prevents serious blood, brain and lung infections from the streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. In the market, many vaccines are available for the prevention of pneumonia. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine available as of now, one which protects adults from 23 strains (PPSV23), and the other which protects toddlers and children against 13 strains (PCV13). Pneumococcal vaccines currently available in the market even covering more strains do not protect against all the pneumococcal serotypes numbering more than 90. Developments of affordable pneumococcal protein vaccines which can protect against most or all of the disease-causing serotypes of pneumococcus is in various stages of development and are expected to hit the market in the near future.
There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), PPSV23 is made using dead bacteria. The dead germs cannot make you sick.
The other is a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13 (Prevnar 13), which is routinely given to infants and toddlers, but was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults ages 50 and older. It protects against up to 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): This vaccine protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia. PPSV23 is being manufactured by using dead bacteria. The dead germs cannot make a person sick. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) is recommended for all adults 65 years or older. People who are at high risk of pneumococcal disease are also given the PPSV23 vaccine.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): This is recommended for all children younger than 5 years. For infants normally, four doses of vaccine beginning 2nd month up to 15 months are given. Now the vaccine is also recommended to be used for adults of more than 50 years of age.
HibCV: The vaccines called HibCV is available for prevention of pneumonia in children
Influenza vaccines: They are also known as flu shots. Since influenza virus changes rapidly, this vaccine is constantly upgraded to meet the requirements. So vaccination is given each year. This vaccine can be given at the age of 6 months and above.
Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wear a mask to cover nose and mouth especially when visiting hospitals, arid regions, and places you feel there can be contaminated air.
Avoid smoking: Smoking damages your natural defenses against respiratory infections.
Have a strong immune system: Get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
7. How is Pneumonia diagnosed?
Usually, the doctor will look into the medical history of the patient and conduct a physical examination. During the examination, your doctor listens to the sounds in different parts of the lungs with a stethoscope. The doctor may find it difficult to hear sounds of the breathing in some areas of the chest or he may hear symptoms such as coarse breathing, wheezing, crackling sounds, and reduced breath sounds in a particular part of the lungs. If pneumonia is suspected, the doctor may ask for the following tests:
Chest X-ray: With a chest X-ray, the doctor will diagnose pneumonia and find out the extent of the infection and its location. However, the chest X-ray will not be able to indicate the kind of pathogen that is causing pneumonia in the person.
Sputum test: A sample of fluid called sputum from the lungs is taken through a deep cough and analyzed in the laboratory to find out the cause of infection.
Blood tests: Blood tests will be conducted to confirm an infection and to identify the type of pathogen causing the infection. However, precise identification of the organism is not possible in some cases.
Pulse oximetry: This test is conducted to measure the quantity of oxygen in the blood. Pneumonia generally prevents the lungs from pushing enough oxygen into the bloodstream.
CT scan: If the pneumonia is not getting healed quickly as expected, the doctor may recommend a chest CT scan through which a more detailed image of the lungs can be obtained.
Pleural fluid culture: A needle will be inserted between the ribs from the pleural area of the patient to collect a fluid sample. This fluid is analyzed in the laboratory to determine the type of infection.
Sputum testing: Sputum testing requires a sample of sputum collected from a deep cough. The culture of sputum is used to identify the microorganism that caused pneumonia and can help determine which antibiotic is best.
Urine antigen testing: Urine tests can be helpful for diagnosing pneumonia caused by two bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila. These tests are easy to perform and provide rapid results.
Blood oxygen measurement: Pneumonia can decrease the amount of oxygen available in the blood. As a result, a blood oxygen level is often measured by attaching a small clip to the finger or ear that uses infrared light. In those who are extremely sick, the oxygen level may be measured by withdrawing a sample of blood from an artery.
Bronchoscopy: Patients who present initially with severe pneumonia or who fail to improve or worsen during their hospitalization despite treatment with antibiotics may require further testing with bronchoscopy. In this procedure, a physician uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera to view the trachea and bronchi (the tube between the trachea and lungs). This allows them to look directly at the lungs, collect fluid samples or a biopsy (a small tissue sample), and determine whether there is an underlying cause of infection, such as a growth or inhaled foreign body.