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Pneumococcal Disease

About Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria which can result in many types of illnesses. Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections. While anyone can get pneumococcal disease, people at certain ages or with certain medical conditions are at increased risk for different types of pneumococcal disease.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that are spread by airborne droplets, or by direct contact with infected saliva or mucus.

Some of these infections are considered “invasive”. Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is a group of illnesses caused by pneumococcus bacteria. Two types are: pneumococcal meningitis that occurs when bacteria invade the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and pneumococcal bacteremia, which occurs when bacteria invade the bloodstream.

Pneumococcal Disease in Children

Pneumococcal disease in children includes IPD and non-invasive pneumococcal disease. IPD includes meningitis and bacteremia. Non-invasive pneumococcal disease includes middle ear infection (otitis media). Among children, those under two are at highest risk for IPD.

What are the symptoms of middle ear infections?

Ear infections are usually mild and are much more common than severe forms of pneumococcal disease. Symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • A red, swollen ear drum
  • Fever
  • Sleepiness

Pneumococcal Disease in Adults

Due to age alone, adults over 65 are among those at highest risk for pneumococcal disease. One type of pneumococcal disease in adults is pneumococcal pneumonia.

What is Pneumococcal Pneumonia?

Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of bacterial pneumonia. Pneumococcal pneumonia can lead to hospitalization and in some severe cases, sometimes death.

Being at least 65 years of age or having certain chronic health conditions can make you more susceptible to pneumococcal pneumonia. Risk factors for pneumococcal pneumonia include:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism

Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious disease that can strike anywhere, anytime and can spread from person to person through coughing. In particular, many people dismiss pneumococcal pneumonia as an illness that only affects the elderly, or those that have been hospitalized. That's not always true. Pneumococcal pneumonia can occur in otherwise healthy people outside of hospital or healthcare settings. And even those as young as 50 may be at increased risk. Being at least 65 years of age or having certain chronic health conditions can make you more susceptible to pneumococcal pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia?

Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious and, in some cases, life-threatening illness that can strike anywhere at any time. Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include:

  • High fever
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Shaking Chills
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest Pains

Adults over 50 are at eight times greater risk of being hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia compared to younger adults, with an average hospital stay of six days for those requiring hospitalization.

How is Pneumococcal Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosis and treatment varies depending on the type of pneumococcal disease with which the patient is infected.

When diagnosing IPD, such as meningitis or bloodstream infections, samples of cerebrospinal fluid or blood are collected and sent to a laboratory for testing. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important for IPD.

When non-invasive pneumococcal disease, such as ear infections, is suspected, diagnosis is generally made by a healthcare provider after performing a physical exam.

Pneumococcal disease is treated with antibiotics.

One of the best ways to help protect against certain types of infectious diseases, including pneumococcal, is through vaccination.