Infectious Diseases

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Pneumococcal Disease (strep pneumo)

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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 it spread?

The bacteria 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 is also be spread by touching objects contaminated by these droplets and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually start 1-3 days after being exposed to the bacteria. 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 include joint pain, fever and chills.

How do I know if I have Pneumococcal Disease?

It is important to be aware of the symptoms of pneumococcal disease. If you develop symptoms there are different tests that your health care provider will use to test for Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Sometimes your blood or cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) will be tested.

What is the treatment for Pneumococcal Disease?

Pneumococcal Disease is treated with antibiotics. Some pneumococcal infections are resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

How do I protect myself and others?

The best way to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease is to ensure you have received all your immunizations. The Prevnar 13 vaccine is publicly funded (free) in Ontario for children up until their 5th birthday. For infants who are just starting their immunization series with Prevnar 13, the majority will receive a 3 dose series, given at 2, 4, and 12 months of age.

Infants with the following high risk conditions will receive a 4 dose series, given at 2, 4, 6, & 15 months of age:

  • Chronic respiratory disease (except Asthma, unless treated with high-dose corticosteroids)
  • Chronic cardiac disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Chronic renal disease or nephrotic syndrome
    Diabetes mellitus
  • Asplenia, splenic disorders, sickle-cell disease
  • Chronic cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Anyone who is immunosuppressed
  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • Cochlear implant recipients

Pneu-P-23 vaccine is publicly funded (free) for all persons 65 years of age and older regardless of medical condition and all residents of nursing homes, homes for the aged and chronic care

All persons =2 years of age with the medical conditions listed below should receive one dose of the Pneu-P-23 vaccine:

  • Chronic respiratory disease (excluding asthma, except those treated with high- dose corticosteroid therapy)
  • Chronic cardiac disease
  • Chronic liver disease (including hepatitis B and C, and hepatic cirrhosis due to any cause)
  • Chronic renal disease, including nephrotic syndrome
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Chronic neurologic condition that may impair clearance of oral secretions
  • Asplenia (functional or anatomic), splenic dysfunction, sickle-cell disease and other sickle cell haemoglobinopathies
  • Primary immune deficiency
  • Congenital immunodeficiencies involving any part of the immune system, including B-lymphocyte (humoral) immunity, T-lymphocyte (cell) mediated immunity, complement system (properdin, or factor D deficiencies), or phagocytic functions
  • Other conditions associated with immunosuppression (e.g., malignant neoplasms, including leukemia and lymphoma)
  • Immunosuppressive therapy including use of long-term systemic corticosteroid, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, post-organ transplant therapy, certain anti-rheumatic drugs and other immunosuppressive therapy
  • HIV infection
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplant (candidate or recipient)
  • Solid organ or islet cell transplant (candidate or recipient)
  • Cochlear implant recipients (pre/post implant)

Speak to your doctor about the vaccine. If you do not have a doctor, call the Vaccine Preventable Disease Team at the health unit.

You can also 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.

For data on the incidence of invasive Pneumococcal disease in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario, please visit the invasive Pneumococcal disease page on the health unit’s HealthSTATS site


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