Facts About Pneumococcal Disease in Adults
"I’m committed to helping reduce pneumococcal disease among US adults because over the years, I have seen too many lives cut short by this disease.
|University of Connecticut School of Medicine
What is pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococcal disease is an infection by common bacteria called “pneumococcus” [noo-muh-kok-uhs]. It can lead to severe illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections (bacteremia).
Is it dangerous?
Pneumococcal disease is serious and deadly. In the US, pneumococcal meningitis and blood infections kill thousands each year. Most of these deaths are in adults. For those who survive, these infections can lead to hospitalization, long recovery time, and devastating health problems such as hearing loss, seizures, blindness, and paralysis.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is also dangerous. As many as 175,000 people are hospitalized each year with it and some of these patients will have a heart attack or heart failure as a result.
What are the symptoms?
Pneumococcal disease can strike quickly and without warning, but symptoms are not the same for everyone. Depending on whether the infection causes pneumonia, blood infection, or meningitis, people may have some combination of the following:
- abrupt onset of fever
- shaking/chills, cough
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- stiff neck
- sensitivity to light
How do people get pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococcal bacteria spread through coughing or sneezing or through direct contact, such as kissing. Not everyone who carries the bacteria becomes ill, so it’s possible to “catch” pneumococcal disease from someone who appears healthy.
Who can get pneumococcal disease?
Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but those 65 and older and younger adults with certain chronic health conditions are more likely than others to get it. They are also at greater risk for serious illness.
Is there anything I can do to keep from getting pneumococcal disease?
There are vaccines that help prevent it. Medicare and most private insurance companies cover vaccination for patients who need it. It’s also important to get an influenza vaccination every year because having the flu increases the chances of getting pneumococcal disease.
How do I know if I should be vaccinated?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for:
- Anyone 65 years of age and older
- Adults 19-64 with any of the following conditions:
- Chronic illnesses such as lung, heart, liver or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes; or alcoholism
- Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, damaged/absent spleen
- Cochlear implants or cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) leaks
- Adults 19-64 who smoke cigarettes
There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available for adults: a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) and a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). Adults with any of the following need to receive both vaccines: immunocompromising conditions (e.g., HIV/AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma, and Hodgkins disease); a damaged or missing spleen; cochlear implants; or CSF leaks. Other adults who are indicated for pneumococcal vaccination only need PPSV23, but may need more than one dose.
Are there side effects from vaccination?
Mild side effects such as redness or pain at the injection site may occur. Very rarely, fever, muscle aches, or more severe reactions may develop.
For more information, speak with your healthcare professional or visit www.adultvaccination.org.