Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Pneumococcal pneumonia

Pneumonia is a lung disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia, a kind of pneumonia, can infect the upper respiratory tract and can spread to the blood, lungs, middle ear, or nervous system.

Pneumococcal pneumonia mainly causes illness in children younger than 5 years old and adults 65 years of age or older. The elderly are especially at risk of getting seriously ill and dying from this disease. In addition, people with certain medical conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, or liver diseases, or sickle cell anemia are also at increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. People with HIV/AIDS or people who have had organ transplants and are taking medicines that lower their resistance to infection are also at high risk of getting this disease.

Cause

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and sometimes fungi. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or strep. S. pneumoniae is also called pneumococcus.

Transmission

Pneumococcus is spread through contact with people who are ill or who carry the bacteria in their throat. You can get pneumococcal pneumonia from respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person. It is common for people, especially children, to carry the bacteria in their throats without being sick.

Symptoms

Pneumococcal pneumonia may begin suddenly. You may first have a severe shaking chill which is usually followed by:

Other symptoms may include:



Pneumonia, a contagious lung infection which may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, can be prevented with a vaccine.

Should You Get a Pneumonia Vaccination?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

The term pneumonia refers to any infection of the lung. The "pneumonia vaccine" is given to prevent one specific type of pneumonia--the pneumonia caused by the Pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) bacterium. Pneumonia caused by Pneumococcus is the most common form of infection occurring outside of a hospital or institutional setting in the U.S. Pneumococcus infection is responsible for over 6,000 deaths per year in the U.S.--the highest number for any vaccine-preventable disease. A serious complication of pneumonia, pneumococcal meningitis, is associated with a particularly high fatality rate.

Certain groups of people are considered to be at particularly high risk for the development of pneumonia, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccination for these groups. Those recommended groups include:

  • People age 65 or older
  • People over age two years of age who have problems with their lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys
  • People over age two years of age with health problems like diabetes, sickle cell disease, alcoholism, or HIV/AIDS
  • Persons over two years of age who are taking any treatments that weaken the body's immune system
  • Alaskan natives and some Native American populations