Pneumococcal disease is caused by common bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) that can attack different parts of the body. When these bacteria invade the lungs, they can cause pneumonia; when they invade the bloodstream, they can cause blood infection, and when they invade the covering of the brain, they can cause meningitis. The bacteria can also cause middle ear infection (otitis media) and sinusitis.
The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. The symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis include stiff neck, fever, mental confusion and disorientation, and sensitivity to light. The symptoms of pneumococcal blood infection may be similar to some of the symptoms of pneumonia and meningitis, along with joint pain and chills.
Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness throughout the world. It is estimated that about one million US adults get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, as many as 400,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia occur annually in the US, and about 5-7% of those who are hospitalized from it will die. The death rate is even higher in those age 65 years and older. Fewer people will get pneumococcal meningitis or bloodstream infection, but the mortality rate for these infections is even higher.
Vaccines are available and are recommended for routine use in children, adults age 65 years and older, and adults age 19 to 64 years with certain risk conditions. Still, many of those indicated have not been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.
Talk to a healthcare professional about pneumococcal vaccination.
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