By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The flu isn't the only illness adults should be immunized against, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday, as a new study found current adult vaccination rates in the country "unacceptably low."
The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that a "substantial increase" in adult vaccinations is needed to prevent diseases including pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, shingles and whooping cough.
"Far too few adults are getting vaccinated against these important diseases, and we need to do more," said Dr. Howard Koh, an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2011, there were 37,000 cases of invasive pneumonia in the United States, and most of the 4,000 people who died from the illness were over the age of 50, Koh said.
The CDC, a federal agency, recommends that older patients at risk for pneumonia receive vaccinations for the disease, he said.
Adults who don't get vaccinated can put others, including children, at risk, Koh said. In 2012, 9,300 adults were diagnosed with whooping cough out of a total of 42,000 cases.
"When the source is identified, four out of five babies who got whooping cough caught it from someone in the home, a parent, sister, brother, grandparent or babysitter," he said. "These are just examples of why adult vaccines are critical to the public health of our country."
Some vaccines, such as flu shots, are recommended for all adults, the CDC said. Others are suggested based on a patient's age and overall health.
"We are encouraging all adults to talk with their health care providers about which vaccines are appropriate for them," Koh said.
(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)