Pneumococcal disease is an infection triggered by the Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) bacterium, likewise called pneumococcus. Infection can lead to pneumonia, infection of the blood (bacteremia/sepsis), middle-ear infection (otitis media), or bacterial meningitis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that pneumococcal disease is the world’s number 1 vaccine-preventable cause of death amongst infants and children younger than 5 years of age.
There are two primary types of pneumococcal diseases:
1) Non-invasive pneumococcal diseases
These might be less serious than invasive pneumococcal disease and occur outside the significant organs or the blood. S. pneumoniae can spread from the nasopharynx (nose and throat) to the upper and lower breathing tract and can cause:
- Otitis media – middle ear infection. Inflammation of the middle ear, usually with accumulation of fluid in the center ear, swelling of the eardrum, earache. If the eardrum is perforated drain of pus into the ear canal.
Non-bacteremic pneumonia – infection of the lower respiratory tract without detectable spread of organisms to the blood stream
2) Invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPD)
These have the tendency to be more serious and take place inside a major organ, or in the blood. Examples of IPDs include:
- Bacteremia (sepsis) – bacterial infection of the blood. Bacteremia describes the presence of live bacteria in the blood, while sepsis suggests a blood infection which is associated with capillary leak, shock and an increased risk of death.
- Meningitis – inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the 3 membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord.
- Bacteremic pneumonia – inflammation of one or both lungs, with pneumococcus in the bloodstream.
Pneumococcal Disease Burden
Inning accordance with the WHO, up to 1.6 million people pass away each year globally as an outcome of pneumococcal diseases – about half of them are children below 5 years of age in developing countries. WHO classes pneumococcal disease as a significant reason for mortality and morbidity. (Morbidity = disease, disease. Mortality = death).
Pneumococcal disease causes two deaths every hour amongst children below 5 years of age in the Americas each year, inning accordance with PAHO (Pan American Health Organization).
It is also amongst the leading two isolates found in otitis media. Pneumococcal pneumonia tends to affect human beings when they are either very young or very old.
Inning accordance with WHO, vaccination is the only readily available tool to prevent pneumococcal disease. WHO includes that “the recent development of prevalent microbial resistance to essential antibiotics underlines the urgent requirement for more efficient pneumococcal vaccines.”
Pneumococcal disease is contagious, suggesting it spreads out from person to individual. It can lead to different type of health issue — including severe infections in the lungs, lining of the brain and spine, and blood.
Pneumococcal disease is specifically dangerous for babies, older adults, and people with certain health conditions.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease.
Who Needs to Get Pneumococcal Vaccines?
All infants, young children, and adults age 65 and older have to get the pneumococcal vaccine.
Pneumococcal vaccines are also recommended for people who:
- Have long-term health conditions, like heart disease or asthma
- Have weakened immune systems
- Smoke cigarettes
The PCV13 vaccine is recommended for:
- All adults age 65 and older (1 dosage).
- All children younger than 2 years (4 doses).
- Young kids and adults ages 2 through 64 years who have particular health conditions (dosages might vary).
The PPSV23 vaccine is suggested for:
- All adults age 65 and older (1 dosage).
- Children and adults ages 2 through 64 years who have specific health conditions, including a weakened body immune system (1 dosage).
- Adults ages 19 through 64 who smoke cigarettes (dosages may vary).
Talk with your doctor about how to secure your family from pneumococcal disease.
Who Should Not Get Pneumococcal Vaccines?
You need to not get a pneumococcal vaccine if you have had a lethal allergy to that specific pneumococcal vaccine or any component in it. Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
- Have major allergies of any kind.
- Are pregnant.
If you’re sick, you might have to wait till you’re feeling much better to get a pneumococcal vaccine.
What Are the Side Effects of Pneumococcal Vaccines?
Side effects from pneumococcal vaccines are generally moderate and go away in a couple of days.
In adults, side effects of the PCV13 vaccine might consist of:
- Pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given.
- Not feeling hungry.
- Feeling tired.
Side effects in children may consist of:
- Redness or swelling where the shot was offered.
- Not wanting to eat.
- Moderate fever.
Young kids who get the PCV13 vaccine at the same time as the influenza shot might be at increased risk for seizures (unexpected, uncommon motions or habits) caused by fever.
Side effects of the PPSV23 vaccine may include:
- Pain or soreness where the shot was given.
- Muscle aches.
Like any medication, there’s a very little chance that pneumococcal vaccines might cause a major response. Bear in mind that getting a pneumococcal vaccine is much more secure than getting pneumococcal disease.