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PULSE PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINE IMPORTANT FOR THE ELDERLY, TOO.

Byline: Sherry Joe Crosby Staff Writer

When it comes to vaccines, flu shots get the lion's share of attention. Just as critical, though, say doctors, is the pneumococcal vaccine.

The shot protects against pneumococcal disease, which can lead to serious infections of the lungs (such as pneumonia), the blood and the covering of the brain. About 40,000 Americans die each year from the disease - more than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Yet just 65 percent of California adults age 65 and older had ever had a pneumonia vaccination in 2003, the latest year for which data were collected by the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which tracks health risks in the United States.

``We have a disease that is certainly preventable and we're not taking full advantage of those opportunities,'' says county health officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding.

According to an online hospital rating system by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, San Fernando Valley-area hospitals do a lackluster job of screening and administering the vaccine to patients 65 years and older. Senior citizens are among those most at risk for pneumococcal disease, which can develop as a complication of the flu.

Part of the problem may lie in how doctors approach vaccinations, says Dr. Howard Backer, chief of the immunization branch for the California Department of Health Services.

Unlike pediatricians, who routinely immunize their patients according to a set timetable, doctors who treat adults may not ask about vaccinations.

``Pediatric doctors have it hard-wired into their practice,'' says Backer. ``It's part of their routine. Adult practitioners are slowly being brought around to routine preventive care. But it's still not ingrained.''

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Most healthy adults who get the shot develop protection to most or all of these types, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, very old people, children under 2 years of age and people with some long-term illnesses may not respond as well or at all.

Complicating matters, elderly patients may confuse their annual flu shot with the pneumococcal vaccine, which most adults need only once.

``They're not clear on what it is, and they may not even know if they got it,'' says Backer, who recommends patients keep a record at home of their pneumococcal shots.

CHILD- REARING: Approximately one-third of California's children ages birth to 4 years old are in structured day-care settings - but for the remaining 65 percent in the care of a parent, relative or other informal caregiver, KCET is airing two daily talk shows, ``A Place of Our Own'' and its Spanish-language companion, ``Los Ninos en Su Casa.'' The shows explore such topics as literacy, child nutrition, safety, discipline and socialization. Reading to different ages is today's topic on ``A Place of Our Own,'' which airs weekdays at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. ``Los Ninos en Su Casa'' airs weekdays at 6 a.m. and 1 p.m.

ORAL DEODORANT: Joining the crowded shelf of deodorants and antiperspirants is a new stink-free solution called Body Mint. Made with green plant extracts, the twice-a-day pill is said to alleviate unpleasant body odors, including bad breath and foot odor. The creators of Body Mint warn that it is not made to replace your normal hygiene routine, but to supplement and enhance it. Testers here, however, reported no difference in their body odor. Body Mint is available at Savon and Osco stores, and sells for $18.99 for a 30-day supply. www.bodymint.com.

Sherry Joe Crosby, (818) 713-3760

sherryjoe.crosby(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1) Debi Gutierrez, left, host of ``A Place of Our Own,'' and Alina Rosario, host of the Spanish-language companion series, ``Los Ninos en Su Casa.''

(2) no caption (needle)

(3) no caption (BODY MINT)

Box:

Get the facts

- Sources: Centers for Disease Control, Health Alliance Plan
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 17, 2005
Words:652
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