WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton is recovering from a disease that affects up to ten million people in the U.S. each year. She has pneumonia which is an infection of the lungs. While it’s treatable, it’s a serious diagnosis – especially for seniors – that should not be taken lightly.
Pneumonia can be either mild or severe and some of us are more susceptible than others to getting it. Because so much attention has focused on this medical condition given Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia, Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller looked into the risk factors and the best treatment options available.
“It’s just awful. Awful. You never want to feel like that again.” Tammy Galabinski recalls the time a persistent cough, fever and difficulty breathing landed her in the hospital. “Right away they put me on the oxygen and stuff and gave me a shot of prednisone and stuff to help me breathe better.”
With her lungs filling with fluid, the diagnosis was pneumonia — a respiratory infection caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. Besides antibiotics, Ms. Galabinski needed daily breathing treatments and plenty of rest to recover. “It wasn’t an overnight fix. It was a few weeks and the cough lagged on for awhile.”
Commonwealth Health Physician Joseph Anistranski, MD commonly treats patients with pneumonia. “Even for a young person it’s probably going to take weeks to get better from pneumonia. If you’re older it might actually take a couple months to really feel better.” He said older adults and younger children are most at risk of getting pneumonia. So are people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.
You’re also vulnerable if you’re exposed to someone with pneumonia. “It could be contagious. A lot of things are especially passed hand to mouth or by droplets if you sneeze or cough,” said Dr. Anistranski. You could get the less severe infection called ‘walking pneumonia’ and as Dr. Anistranski noted you may not even realize you have it. “Most people will not feel as sick or look as sick. They may have a cough for a few weeks, headaches, some other things.”
Of course the best way to prevent the fallout from pneumonia is to avoid getting it in the first place. That’s where immunizations come into play. “We’re seeing more and more people looking and asking us for and about the pneumonia shot,” said pharmacist Bruce Lefkowitz who owns Harrold’s Pharmacy in Wilkes-Barre. The two kinds of pneumonia shots – Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax – work to ward off specific pneumonia strains. And most doctors today recommend that anyone over 65 should get both. “So if they can prevent a person from getting pneumonia with the pneumonia shot, it’s worthwhile,” said Mr. Lefkowitz.
Discuss with your doctor if a pneumonia shot is right for you and see if it’s covered by your insurance. One of the simplest ways to prevent pneumonia comes down to good hygiene. Make sure you wash your hands frequently. Doctors say pneumonia is most common in winter but you can get it any time of year as evidenced by Mrs. Clinton’s recent diagnosis.