Pneumococcal Disease (Pneumonia)

What is it?

It is an illness caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, which can become life threatening. Pneumococcal Disease is just one of many types of pneumonia.

Common Symptoms

Fever and chills, cough, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing and chest pain. Older adults may display confusion or low alertness rather than these more common symptoms.

How is it transmitted?

Pneumococcal bacteria is spread to others through direct contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva or mucus. Many people, especially children, may not be ill, but have the bacteria in their nose or throat at one time or another; Doctors call this “carriage.”

Who does it primarily affect?

Adults 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, people who have ongoing medical conditions, and people who smoke cigarettes.

Is there a vaccine?

There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines available in the United States

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

Please see this link to see which vaccine is most appropriate for you:

What other prevention steps can you take for pneumococcal disease?

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent pneumococcal disease. It is also important to get an annual influenza vaccination because having the flu increases the likelihood of getting pneumococcal disease.

Is there anything else I should know about pneumococcal disease?

 Pneumococcal pneumonia causes an estimated 150,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States and kills approximately 1 in 20 people who develop the infection.