More than 500,000 people aged 65 and older in Ireland are at risk of getting pneumococcal disease, or pneumo, this winter.
Pneumo is a bacteria which can cause serious illness including meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia. Of those who get infected with pneumo, one in four will develop meningitis, one in four will develop pneumonia, and one in 10 will die. Currently, 84 per cent or more than 500,000 of 65 year olds and older are not protected against pneumo.
Those aged 65 and over are at increased risk of pneumo infection, however, children younger than five and people with weakened immune systems also have a higher risk of infection. It has been estimated that 10 per cent of adults may carry the bacteria, while that figure ranges up to 50 per cent of children attending day care facilities.
Those who are officially at-risk, according to the Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland, include people with diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and those with chronic renal disease and chronic lung problems.
Neil Johnson, CEO of Croí, the west of Ireland Heart Charity, said: “Winter months are a prime time for those with weakened immune systems, including people with heart disease, to catch infection that can cause serious illness. Know that you can be and should be protected against pneumo this winter. Talk to your GP or your pharmacist, or talk to Croí.”
Averil Power, CEO, Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “Prevention is better than cure and the first step towards prevention is awareness. The pneumo bug is spread like the common cold, through coughing, sneezing and by close contact, and like the common cold, it can be hard to avoid. The Asthma Society of Ireland encourages people to ‘Know Pneumo’, and if you think you are at-risk talk to your healthcare professional. We want to ensure people with asthma know that they are at-risk of infection and that there is something they can do about it.”
The Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland recommend that infants, official at-risk groups, and everyone aged 65 years or older should be offered pneumococcal vaccination.
To find out more talk to your GP or pharmacist. You can also visit www.pneumo.ie or follow #KnowPneumo online.