Flu Vaccine May Also Protect Against Pneumonia
Study suggests about 57 percent of hospitalizations for flu-related pneumonia might be prevented
MONDAY, Oct. 5, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Getting a flu shot may protect you not only from flu, but also from pneumonia, the leading cause of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths, a new study suggests.
Most children and adults hospitalized for flu-related pneumonia haven't had a flu shot, the researchers said.
"Influenza vaccine can substantially reduce the risk of hospitalizations for influenza pneumonia, a serious complication of influenza infections," said lead researcher Dr. Carlos Grijalva, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
"We estimate that approximately 57 percent of hospitalizations due to influenza pneumonia could be prevented by influenza vaccination," he said.
The report was published online Oct. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, Grijalva and his colleagues collected data on nearly 2,800 patients hospitalized for pneumonia in four U.S. hospitals from January 2010 through June 2012.
Approximately 6 percent of these patients had flu-related pneumonia, while other patients were hospitalized for pneumonia that was not caused by influenza, Grijalva explained.
"We compared the history of influenza vaccination between these patients. We found that influenza vaccination was associated with a reduced risk of influenza pneumonia that required hospitalization," he said.
In the United States, annual flu epidemics send more than 200,000 people to the hospital and kill as many as 49,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The leading cause of these hospitalizations and deaths is not flu itself, but pneumonia, which is a common complication of flu, according to Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"The flu is a great enabler," Siegel said. "It enables heart disease, pneumonia, appendicitis, sore throats and earaches."
And pneumonia is the number one cause of hospitalization and death, he added.
Siegel pointed out that the study didn't prove that getting a flu shot also prevents pneumonia, but only shows that most people who had flu-related pneumonia hadn't been vaccinated.