Vaccine preventable disease: Pneumococcal

What it is: Pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria that target the upper respiratory tract. The bacteria causes blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis, mostly in young children. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible, and it is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in the U.S.

How it spreads: Saliva and other droplets from an infected person’s throat can transmit the bacteria from person to person. The bacteria can be carried in a person’s system without the carrier showing symptoms.

What it causes: Pneumococcal pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis can begin without warning, normally starting with shaking chills followed by:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches/pains

What to do: Antibiotics are available to treat pneumococcal pneumonia. Some forms of the bacteria have begun to build antibiotic resistance; healthcare providers should be consulted for further treatment options.
Vaccinations are available for both children and adults, and it’s recommended that young children and elderly adults get immunized. There are currently two types of vaccines available. Young children are routinely protected with the vaccine PCV13 at ages two, four, six and 12 months. The vaccine PPSV23 is available for persons beginning at age two years and older. Ask your medical provider about vaccine protection against pneumococcal disease.