Pneumococcal Disease
Overview

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Pneumococcal infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. Children younger than 2 years old are among those most at risk for disease. There are vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease in children and adults.

There are many types of pneumococcal disease. Symptoms and complications depend on the part of the body that is infected.

Pneumococcal pneumonia (lung infection) is the most common serious form of pneumococcal disease. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Pneumococcal meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain when looking into bright lights
  • Confusion

In babies, meningitis may cause poor eating and drinking, low alertness, and vomiting.

Pneumococcus bacteria causes up to half of middle ear infections (otitis media). Symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • A red, swollen ear drum
  • Fever
  • Sleepiness

Most pneumococcal infections are mild. However, some can be deadly or result in long-term problems, such as brain damage or hearing loss. Meningitis is the most severe type of invasive pneumococcal disease. Of children younger than 5 years old who get pneumococcal meningitis, about 1/15 dies of the infection and others have long-term problems, such as hearing loss or developmental delay.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. About 5 out of 100 people with non-invasive pneumococcal pneumonia will die from it. 

For more information about pneumococcal disease, click here.

Vaccine

Pneumococcal disease is a communicable disease that is preventable with vaccines. Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections, such as meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections. Pneumococcal vaccines are very good at preventing severe disease, needing treatment in the hospital, and death. However, vaccination is not guaranteed to prevent infection and symptoms in all people. For more information about the different types of vaccines, click here.

School Exclusion and Reportable to Public Health

Children with pneumomia usually go back to school as soon as they have no fever for 24 hours and feel well enough to be there. However, proper hand washing should continue to be strictly monitored.

Pneumococcal disease is not currently reportable to Ventura County Public Health.