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Pneumococcal pneumonia is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by the pneumococcus bacteria, also known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. If left untreated it can cause infections in the lungs, blood, nervous system, and middle ear. It mainly affects young children, adults over the age of 65, and people with an impaired immune system or chronic lung, heart, or liver conditions. Because it can spread to other areas of the body, older adults are more likely to become extremely ill from pneumococcal pneumonia.
Typically, pneumococcal pneumonia is spread through human contact. In most cases, the bacteria are located in the throat of the infected person. When that person releases respiratory droplets through a sneeze or a cough, a second person who comes in contact with those droplets can become infected with the bacteria. It is possible for some people to carry pneumococcus in their throats without exhibiting any of the symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia.
The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia may appear quickly. Usually, a person experiences chills first. Then, she may have other symptoms, such as a fever, cough, chest pains, shortness of breath, and rapid breathing. Less common symptoms include headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
There are several ways that doctors may diagnose a person with pneumococcal pneumonia. First, she may listen to the patient’s symptoms to see if they match the symptoms of the disease. Next, she may take chest x-rays. In addition, she may take a blood, lung fluid, or saliva sample and send it to a laboratory where technicians can check for the presence of pneumococcus bacteria.
Luckily, if diagnosed early enough, pneumococcal pneumonia can be treated quickly with a round of antibiotics. In most cases, the symptoms lessen and disappear 12 to 48 hours after taking the first dose of the antibiotics. In some cases, the strain of the bacteria may have mutated and may not affected by the antibiotics. As a result, prevention is the best method to bypass infection.
A vaccine is available for pneumococcal pneumonia as well. It is typically recommended for people aged 65 and older or under two years old. In addition, people with respiratory diseases, immune deficiencies, or other life-threatening illnesses may be advised to receive the vaccine. People are reminded to wash their hands frequently and remain home when they are sick to lessen the spread of the bacteria.