Each year 500,000 Americans develop pneumococcal pneumonia -- a common bacterial pneumonia that can lead to serious, possibly fatal, illness.
The October issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is spreading the word: A vaccine is available that helps protect against this form of pneumonia and reduces the serious complications of the disease.
Many people are unaware of the vaccine, or may not know that they are eligible for the vaccination, which is covered by Medicare and Medicaid. That may be why pneumococcal pneumonia is responsible for 40,000 deaths a year in the United States -- roughly equal to the number of breast cancer deaths.
Ask your doctor about the vaccine if you meet any of these criteria:
You are age 65 or older.
You have serious long-term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease, alcoholism or liver cirrhosis.
Your resistance to infection is lowered due to certain cancers, cancer treatment, long-term use of immunosuppressant medications such as steroids, kidney failure, a damaged or removed spleen, or HIV/AIDS.
Usually, you need just one pneumonia vaccination and can get it anytime. The vaccine is considered safe and rarely causes serious side effects.