Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including some that can be life-threatening. Fortunately, there are pneumococcal vaccines available.

Pneumococcus is one of the most common causes of severe pneumonia. In addition to causing pneumonia, pneumococcus can cause other types of infections too, including:
• Ear infections
• Sinus infections
• Meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord)
• Bacteremia (blood stream infection)

Some of these infections are considered “invasive.” An invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs. For example, pneumococcal bacteria can invade the bloodstream, causing bacteremia, and the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis. Some Streptococcus pneumoniae have become resistant to one or many antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that pneumococcal bacteria spread from person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory secretions, like saliva or mucus. Many people, especially children, have the bacteria in their nose or throat at one time or another without being ill. These people can still spread pneumococcal disease.

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some people are at greater risk for disease than others. Children at increased risk for pneumococcal disease include those:
• Younger than 2 years old
• In group child care
• Who have certain illnesses (sickle cell disease, HIV infection, or chronic heart or lung conditions)
• With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)

Adults 65 years or older are also considered to be at increased risk for pneumococcal disease. In addition, some adults 19 through 64 years old are also at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, including those:
• With chronic illnesses (lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes; or alcoholism)
• With conditions that weaken the immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen)
• Living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
• With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)
• Who smoke cigarettes

These are just a few things to know about pneumococcal disease and Streptococcus pneumoniae. To learn more about this or other microbial pathogens, indoor air quality, health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark
EMSL Analytical, Inc.
Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc.
LA Testing
Zimmetry Environmental
Healthy Indoors Magazine
Hudson Douglas Public Adjusters