Pneumonia and Pneumococcus
by Julia Zackiewicz
Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in the world, 25,000
in the U.S. alone. It causes about 500,000 to 800,000 North Americans
to be hospitilized every year. Pneumonia is an inlamation or infection
of the lungs. The lungs fill with liquids such as mucus. This prevents
oxygen from reaching the blood. When there is insufficent oxygen in
the blood, cells in the body weaken and die.
Pneumonia can attack anyone from infants to the eldery, but those
who are at highest risk are 65 years of age or older. Children 2 years
old and younger are also very vulnerable to the disease. Symptoms
can be very sudden or gradual. Some include shaking chills, chattering,
chest pain, severe cough, high temperature, quickened pulse rate,
and bluish lips and nails.
The cause of Pneumonia is a bacteria called Pneumococcus, a
bacteria carried by one third of the entire population. When a
person's resistance is lowered, the bacteria invades the lung's
tissues and then quickly spreads throughout the bloodstream.
It eventually infects the whole body.
Pneumococcus, along with Pneumonia, can cause meningitis,
septicaemia, ear infections, and blood stream infections. The
bacteria is normaly carried in the nose and upper throat and
may be spread through coughing and sneezing. In developing
countries, as many as one in every ten deaths in young children
attribute to this infection.
Doctors reccomend getting a vaccine for Pneumococcus to lower the
risk of the diseases it causes. Studies show that the new vaccine
developed is 90% effective against all strains of the bacteria. At
one time, some drugs such as Pennicilin were effective in treating
Pneumococcus related diseases, butantibiotic resistant forms of the
bacteria are slowly becoming more common. This situation makes the
prevention of the disease, through vaccines, even more important.