Video: CDC urges pneumonia vaccine for swine flu

  1. Closed captioning of: CDC urges pneumonia vaccine for swine flu

    >> nih back to swine flu and a new recommendation from the centers of disease control that, yes, there is one more vaccine the government is recommending. joining me now, dr. frank esper. he's with the infectious disease department at the university hospital medical center in cleveland. thanks for taking the time this morning.

    >> good to be here. thank you.

    >> let's explain this. because i think this is maybe the most confusing flu season that you and i have ever encountered. we have seasonal flu . we have h1n1 or swine flu . and the new recommendation, which i've talked about a lot in the past is for a vaccine to prevent pneumonia. why?

    >> right. well, we actually -- these are not new vaccines. the pneumonia vaccine has actually been around for the last five years. it's actually part of the normal newborn vaccination plan we have for children. it's always been recommended for adults over the age -- anywhere between 2 and 65 years of age who actually have some predisposing problem. so these aren't new vaccines at all. but we have recognized that with influenza, we always see bacterial second infections that follow influenza. for whatever reason, and we're not too clear as to why this happens, but influenza opens up the back door and allows a lot of bacteria infections in to cause more severe mu mopneumonias than influenza does itself.

    >> is it fair to say for people who get infected with one of the influenza strains that they end up dying from the secondary bacterial infection that really comes on as pneumonia?

    >> we've certainly seen that influenza itself can cause really bad disease. however, we do see a lot of people, and the most recent report has shown, that there was evidence of bacteria in the lungs of people who died . about 30% to 40% of people who died from the pandemic strain. so what we need to do is be aware that there may be two problems going on in anyone who gets really, really sick with the pandemic or honestly any influenza.

    >> dr. frank esper, thank you. these are the great scientific breakthroughs of the modern age . we have shots that can prevent disease and illness. get them. thank you.

By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
updated 9/30/2009 12:15:57 PM ET 2009-09-30T16:15:57

Many people who've died from swine flu also have been infected with pneumonia bacteria, underscoring the need for vaccination against that bug, too, federal health officials said Wednesday.

Of 77 people who died from complications of the H1N1 strain between May 1 and Aug. 20, 22, or nearly 30 percent, also had bacterial co-infections, including some caused by pneumococcus, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Seven of the victims were children aged 15 and younger, the report showed.

Those infections likely worsened the illness and contributed to the deaths, six of which occurred in previously healthy people with no known medical conditions, the data showed. CDC officials urged people at high risk for flu complications to check with doctors about getting a pneumonia vaccine in addition to the recommended seasonal and H1N1 flu shots.

"It's those bad pneumonia infections that are the complicating factor," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and director of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Bacterial infections key in 1918 pandemic
Influenza can cause viral pneumonia, but it can also weaken the system enough to allow opportunistic bacteria to surge, resulting in separate, potentially deadly infections, said Dr. Gregory Poland, a infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic.

Such bacterial co-infections are now believed to have contributed to many, if not most, of the more than 50 million deaths worldwide during the 1918 influenza pandemic, although medical historians continue to debate the question.

Most children under 5 receive pneumonia vaccinations as part of routine care, but many older children and adults miss the recommended shots, said Schaffner, who urged doctors to be vigilant about vaccinating their patients.

Video: How to create a swine flu emergency kit CDC reports that 936 people died and more than 10,000 were hospitalized with flu and pneumonia between Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, with nearly all flu cases attributed to H1N1 infections.

In the latest report, scientists analyzed tissue samples collected from swine flu victims in eight states. Patients who died ranged in age from 2 months to 56 years, with a median age of 31. Some of them may have been eligible for the pneumonia vaccine.

"Our influenza season is off to a fast start and unfortunately there will be more cases of bacterial infections in people suffering from influenza," said Dr. Matthew Moore, a CDC epidemiologist.

All children under 5 should receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and people at high risk of pnemonia between the ages of 2 and 64 and those older than 65 should receive another pneumonia vaccine known as PPSV23, CDC officials said.

Overall, most cases of swine flu remain mild, but patients and health officials must remain alert for serious complications, the CDC's director told NBC news.

“This is uncharted territory for an influenza season,” Dr. Thomas Frieden said. “We’ve had already many millions of cases and will have many millions of cases more.”

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