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Pneumonia is a serious illness that affects one out of every 100 people in the U.S. each year.

It is an inflammation or infection of the lungs most commonly caused by a bacteria or virus. Community-acquired pneumonia is the general term for pneumonia in adults living in the community.

Cigarette smoke increases the risk of community-acquired pneumonia possibly by damaging airways and the small hairs, or cilia, which filter air in the nose and upper airway. Toxic fumes, industrial smoke and other air pollutants may also damage cilia function.

Studies have shown that smokers are about four times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer from a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia: pneumococcal disease. Also, the more cigarettes someone smokes each day, the higher the likelihood that the individual will develop the illnesses. Quitting smoking reduces the risk for pneumococcal disease.

Risk of serious community-acquired pneumonia due to pneumococcal bacteria is further reduced through immunization. Adult smokers aged 19 to 64 years old should get the pneumococcal vaccine. The shot is already recommended for anyone 65 or older and protects against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis and some other illnesses.

Adults who received PPSV23 before age 65 for any other reason should receive another dose of the vaccine at age 65 or later, if at least 5 years have passed since their previous dose. Those who receive PPSV23 at or after age 65 should receive only a single dose.

The vaccine does not protect against most types of pneumonia caused by viruses or the pneumonia that people with low immunity tend to develop.

Discuss your individual situation and specific measures that you can take to reduce your risk for serious respiratory illness this winter with your physician.

The PPSV23 vaccine is available through Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center's Allergy/Immunization Clinic.

For more information, call 301-677-8606.

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