Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Doctors urge elderly to get vaccinated against pneumonia

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Doctors yesterday urged elderly people to get a pneumococcal vaccine along with the seasonal flu vaccine for better protection.

“Getting pneumonia is much easier than getting a Golden Bell Award,” entertainer Hu Gua (胡瓜), who on Saturday won the television award for best variety show host, told a news conference in Taipei to raise public awareness of pneumonia and encourage vaccination.

Hu Gua said he quit smoking and started exercising regularly after being hospitalized twice for pneumonia, with symptoms including high fever and difficulty breathing.

He urged people above 65 years old to get vaccinated against pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a common serious complication of seasonal flu, and it was the third-leading cause of death in Taiwan last year and the year before, said Huang Yi-wen (黃伊文), a physician at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Changhua Hospital and a member of the Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

The number of deaths from pneumonia has doubled from 10 years ago, Huang said.

As older people tend to have more difficulty swallowing, reduced mucociliary clearance, weaker immune systems and other chronic diseases, a flu infection can more easily lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, he added.

Doctors face three major challenges when treating pneumonia: identifying the pathogenic source of the infection; using higher concentrations of antibiotics to reach deep into the lungs; and dealing with Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that have developed a resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics, Huang said.

Infectious Disease Society of Taiwan chairman Huang Li-min (黃立民), a pediatrician at National Taiwan University Hospital, said that getting vaccinated is still the best way to prevent flu and pneumonia.

A study has suggested that getting a pneumococcal vaccine along with a seasonal flu vaccine can reduce the risk of death from pneumonia by 26 percent, he said.

The government-funded flu vaccination program is to begin on Monday next week, the doctors said, urging people who are worried about their health condition to consult a doctor on whether they should get vaccinated.

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