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What is Pneumococcal Pneumonia?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

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 human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs. Pneumonia is often caused by an infection in the lungs.
The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs. Pneumonia is often caused by an infection in the lungs.

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.

Fever and shortness of breath may be signs of pneumococcal pneumonia.
Fever and shortness of breath may be signs of pneumococcal pneumonia.

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.

Chest X-rays will likely be part of the diagnosis process for pneumococcal pneumonia.
Chest X-rays will likely be part of the diagnosis process for pneumococcal pneumonia.

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.

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to WiseGEEK.

Learn more...
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to WiseGEEK.

Learn more...

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    • The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs. Pneumonia is often caused by an infection in the lungs.
      By: Alexandr Mitiuc
      The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs. Pneumonia is often caused by an infection in the lungs.
    • Fever and shortness of breath may be signs of pneumococcal pneumonia.
      By: kmiragaya
      Fever and shortness of breath may be signs of pneumococcal pneumonia.
    • Chest X-rays will likely be part of the diagnosis process for pneumococcal pneumonia.
      By: Deymos
      Chest X-rays will likely be part of the diagnosis process for pneumococcal pneumonia.
    • It is recommended that everyone over the age of 65 receive a pneumonia immunization.
      By: Ocskay Bence
      It is recommended that everyone over the age of 65 receive a pneumonia immunization.
    • The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia may appear quickly.
      By: vbaleha
      The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia may appear quickly.