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Strep Pneumonia and Other Infections: Why You Need the Vaccine

Strep Pneumonia and Other Infections: Why You Need the Vaccine

Young children and the elderly are more susceptible to complications from serious diseases, including pneumococcal infections like strep pneumonia ¹. Learning what causes pneumococcal infections, how they spread, their symptoms, and how they can be prevented, can help us take the necessary steps to reduce the risk that they pose to our family.

Here’s what you need to know:

What Are Pneumococcal Infections? Strep Pneumonia and More

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the bacteria responsible for pneumococcal infections. Pneumococcal infections include mild infections such as otitis media or ear infections, and sinusitis. It is also the cause of more serious or life-threatening illnesses like septicemia, meningitis, and pneumonia².

Who Is at Risk of Pneumococcal Infections?

Not everyone has the same risk for pneumococcal infections. In particular, those with weak immune systems are most at risk for infections like strep pneumonia.

However, it is important to know that even perfectly healthy people can get infected. Here is a list of who is most at risk³:

  • Those aged 65 and older
  • Children and babies, although vaccines have significantly reduced risk to this group
  • Those who have chronic asthma and other respiratory diseases
  • Patients with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, HIV, and other diseases that weaken the immune system
  • Caregivers, or people caring for members of the at-risk population
  • Smokers, or people living with smokers
  • Those struggling with alcoholism
  • Viral infections also increase the risk for secondary pneumococcal infection

If you or any of your loved ones are at risk for pneumococcal infections, it would be best to take precautionary measures by getting vaccinated.

Want to know if you are at risk? Just answer the short quiz below:

Types of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a disease that causes inflammation in a person’s lungs. The most common cause of pneumonia is infection by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, though, pneumonia can also be caused by other pathogens. Strep pneumonia refers to pneumococcal infections caused by S. pneumonniae.

Here are some of the types of pneumonia, grouped according to their causes:

Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia

As the name suggests, hospital-acquired pneumonia is pneumonia that people develop during a hospital stay. Patients who are seriously ill, or those that require a ventilator or breathing machine, have a higher risk of developing hospital-acquired pneumonia.

Community-Acquired Pneumonia

Community-acquired pneumonia refers to pneumonia that you get outside of the hospital. This is the most common way that people get infected with pneumonia, since pneumonia is a contagious disease.

Bacterial Pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia. This is typically caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, though it can also be caused by other types of bacteria. S. pneumonniae causes strep pneumonia.

Viral Pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is pneumonia that’s caused by a viral infection. One of the more prominent examples of this is COVID-19. It’s also possible for a person to be affected by both viral pneumonia as well as bacterial pneumonia at the same time.

When this happens, it’s usually referred to as a pneumococcal coinfection.

Fungal Pneumonia

Fungal spores, when inhaled, can also be a cause of pneumonia. It develops when fungi travels through the bloodstream, and finds its way to a person’s lungs where it can cause an infection.

In contrast with other types of pneumonia, fungal pneumonia is usually not contagious. Treatment for fungal pneumonia typically involves using anti-fungal therapy.

What Symptoms Should You Watch Out For?

When it comes to pneumonia, here are some important symptoms to watch out for:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Ear pain and discharge
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Chest pain

More serious symptoms of pneumococcal infections include:

  • Confusion
  • Decreased alertness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe ear pain
  • A headache that doesn’t go away, or progressively gets worse
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Very fast heart rate

If you experience any of the symptoms above, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

More About Pneumonia

One of the most common pneumococcal infections is pneumonia, also called pneumococcal pneumonia. With this condition, the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium infects the air sacs inside a person’s lungs. Once this happens, excessive mucus and secretions can overwhelm the airways and lungs. This can lead to cough, phlegm production and sometimes shortness of breath.

If left untreated, complications such as septicemia may also happen. This is a condition wherein the bacterium starts to infect the bloodstream. This can eventually lead to a fatal outcome.

One more complication you should know about is meningitis. This occurs when the bacterium, which originally came from the lungs, has now infected a person’s brain.

Both septicemia and meningitis are serious and potentially fatal conditions.

How Can Pneumococcal Infections Like Strep Pneumonia Be Prevented?

One of the best ways to prevent pneumococcal infections, such as strep pneumonia, is to get vaccinated⁸. Very young children might require 4 doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. It’s best to stick to your child’s vaccination schedule as prescribed by your pediatrician.

Another option would be to get the PPSV23 vaccine. In terms of protection, both these vaccines are comparable. The main difference is in the types of pneumococcal infections that they protect against, as well as the design of the vaccine itself.

People who are immunocompromised, or aged 65 and older, can also take advantage of both the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and PPSV23 vaccine for better protection.

Generally, doctors recommend that those in the at-risk population get vaccinated. In addition, it’s not a bad idea for healthy adults to get vaccinated, as it adds a layer of protection against illness and disease.

If you’re considering getting vaccinated, it would be best to talk to a doctor about it. They should be able to give you all the necessary information you need to make an informed decision about your health.

Learn more about pneumonia here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

1 Pneumococcal infections | NHS inform, nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/pneumococcal-infections, Accessed April 29, 2021

2 Symptoms and Complications of Pneumococcal Disease | CDC, cdc.gov/pneumococcal/about/symptoms-complications.html, Accessed April 29, 2021

3 Pneumococcal Disease – National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, nfid.org/infectious-diseases/pneumococcal/, Accessed April 29, 2021

4 Pneumonia | Johns Hopkins Medicine, hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pneumonia, Accessed April 29, 2021

5 Pneumococcal Disease: Risk Factors for Clinicians | CDC, cdc.gov/pneumococcal/clinicians/risk-factors.html, Accessed April 29, 2021

6 Ask the Experts: Pneumococcal Vaccines (PCV13 and PPSV23), immunize.org/askexperts/experts_pneumococcal_vaccines.asp, Accessed April 29, 2021

7 WHO | Pneumococcal disease, who.int/ith/diseases/pneumococcal/en/, Accessed April 29, 2021

8 Factsheet about pneumococcal disease, ecdc.europa.eu/en/pneumococcal-disease/facts, Accessed April 29, 2021

 

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated a week ago
Medically reviewed by Erika Joanna Villanueva Caperonce, M.D.
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