Summary Overview

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including ear infections and meningitis. There are vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease in children and adult.


Basics

Pneumococcus is the most common cause of bloodstream infections, pneumonia, meningitis, and middle ear infections in young children.

Other than pneumonia, pneumococcus can cause other types of infections, including:

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord)
  • Bactermia (blood stream infection)

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, however some people are at greater risk for the disease than others. Age and preexisting medical conditions can increase your risk for pneumococcal disease.


Children at Risk:
  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Children in group child care
  • Children who have certain illnesses (sickle cell disease, HIV infection, chronic heart or lung conditions)
  • Children with cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid leaks.
  • Some American Indian, Alaska Native and African American children may be at an increased risk for the disease.


Adults at Risk:
  • Adults 65 years or older
  • Adults with chronic illnesses (lung, heart, liver or kidney disease, asthma, diabetes and alcoholism)
  • Adults living in nursing homes or any other long-term care facility
  • Adults with cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Adults who smoke cigarettes


Spread of Pneumococcal Disease:
  • Pneumococcal bacteria is spread from person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory secretions such as saliva or mucus
  • Children tend to have this bacteria in their nose or throat at some point


Symptoms of Pneumococcal Disease:

Pneumonia (lung infection)-

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Pneumococcal meningitis-

  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity or pain when looking into bright lights
  • Confusion

Pneumococcal bacteremia and sepsis (blood infections)-

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Low alertness

Recommendations

Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative for invasive pneumococcal disease. Invasive means that germs are invading parts of the body that are normally free from germs.

Diagnosis:
  • If an invasive disease is possible (meningitis or sepsis), then samples of cerebrospinal fluid or blood are collected and sent into a lab for testing.
  • For non-invasive pneumococcal disease such as an ear or sinus infection, then the diagnosis is usually made through a healthcare professional and a physical exam.
Treatment:
  • Pneumococcal disease is treated with antibiotics.
  • For invasive pneumococcal disease infections, broad-spectrum antibiotics are typically used as they target a wide range of bacteria.
Prevention:
  • The most successful way to prevent pneumococcal disease is to get vaccinated.
  • The pneumococcal vaccine helps protect against over 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

Related Facts

900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year (CDC)

For more information regarding Influenza and Pneumonia, click here

For more information regarding Immunizations, click here

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