Pneumococcal Disease (strep pneumo)
What is Pneumococcal Disease?
Pneumococcal disease refers to a number of different types of infection caused by the bacteria Pneumococcus (also called Streptococcus pneumoniae).
Pneumococcal infections are most common in children less than 5 years of age and are the leading cause of:
Otitis media (middle ear infection)
Pneumonia (lung infection)
Bacteraemia (infection of the blood stream, referred to as “invasive”)
Meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain)
How is the bacterium spread?
This bacterium can often be found in the nose and throat of healthy individuals, especially in young children. You may get strep pneumo by breathing in droplets when an infected person either coughs or sneezes. The bacteria are also transmitted by touching objects contaminated by these droplets and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
What are the symptoms of Pneumococcal Disease?
Symptoms of pneumococcal disease are not specific and depend on the site of infection.
Symptoms of pneumonia are often quite sudden and include chills, fever, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, chest pain that is worsened by breathing deeply and a productive cough.
Symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis include stiff neck, fever, confusion and disorientation, and photophobia (sensitivity to light).
Symptoms of invasive pneumococcal disease are characterized by symptoms similar to pneumonia and meningitis, and includes joint pain, fever and chills.
Prevention and Control Measures
You can help stop the spread of pneumococcal disease by washing your hands regularly, especially after you cough or sneeze and prior to preparing and consuming food.
Do not share cigarettes or drink from the same glass, water bottle or straw as others and ensure you throw used Kleenex into the garbage.
Immunity and Vaccination
The best way to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease is to ensure you have received all your immunizations.
Conjugate pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for routine childhood immunization to all children ≤ 23 months of age.
The conjugate pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for children less than 5 years of age who are at a higher risk of developing invasive pneumococcal disease. High-risk children include those who:
Attend child care centres.
Have sickle cell disease and other sickle cell hemoglobinopathies.
Have other types of functional or anatomic asplenia.
Have HIV infection, immunocompromising conditions (e.g., primary immunodeficiencies; malignancies; conditions resulting from immunosuppressive therapy, solid organ transplantation, or use of long-term systemic corticosteroids; nephrotic syndrome).
Have chronic medical conditions (e.g., chronic cardiac and pulmonary disease such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease or CSF leak).
Children with cochlear implants or those receiving cochlear implants.
Polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine is recommended and publicly funded for:
All persons 65 years of age and older regardless of medical condition.
All residents of nursing homes, homes for the aged and chronic care facilities or wards.
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is also available for all persons 2 years of age and older who have not received the vaccine previously and those with the conditions defined earlier, as well as cirrhosis and alcoholism. The vaccine should also be given to those who smoke as they are also at increased risk.
Page Last Modified: Monday, 07 May 2012.