Bacterial Co-Infections Common in Fatal Cases of Influenza

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Many people who have died from 2009 H1N1 influenza in the United States had co-infections with a common bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus) which likely contributed to their death, according to a report published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The CDC is reminding people of the importance of being vaccinated against this common bacterium.

"Our influenza season is off to a fast start and unfortunately there will be more cases of bacterial infections in people suffering from influenza," said CDC epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Moore. "It's really important for people, especially those at high risk for the serious complications from influenza, to check with their provider when they get their influenza vaccine about being vaccinated against pneumococcus."

The CDC report included an analysis of specimens taken from 77 fatal cases of 2009 H1N1.  Bacterial co-infections, including some caused by Streptococcus pneumonia, were noted in about one-third of those cases.

CDC's recommendations for vaccination against Streptococcus pneumonia are listed below.

* All children less than 5 years of age should receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine according to current recommendations (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/default.htm).

* In addition, the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) should be administered to all persons 2-64 years with high risk conditions and everyone 65 years and older (http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance/ppsv_h1n1.htm).

The entire MMWR report can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/.

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