Pneumococcal Disease

Child with pneumococcal disease

What is Pneumococcal Disease?
Pneumococcal Disease is caused by a bacterium known as pneumococcus bacterium. While pneumococcus bacterium is present in many people's noses and throats, it is still unknown why it suddenly invades the body and causes the disease.

Pneumococcus bacterium is spread by coughing and sneezing. It is the most common cause of pneumonia, meningitis (inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord), bacteremia (bloodstream infection), ear infections and sinusitis (sinus infections) in children under 2 years of age. Serious pneumococcal infections are most common in infants, toddlers and the elderly.

The Statistics
Each year in the United States, pneumococcus causes about 4,000 cases of bacteremia, meningitis, or other invasive disease in children younger than 5 years of age. Children under 2 years of age average more than 1 middle ear infection each year, many of which are caused by pneumococcus.

Pneumococcal disease has a higher incidence in individuals with certain health problems such as immune deficiencies, sickle cell disease or lack of a functioning spleen. Additionally, there is a higher rate of infection in children of certain ethnic populations including African-American, Alaskan Native and specific Native American populations. Children younger than 5 years of age in out-of-home day care are at increased risk (approximately 2 fold higher) of experiencing invasive pneumococcal infections than other children.

The Vaccine
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13) is used to protect children and adolescents against pneumococcal disease. Four doses of the vaccine are needed. The first dose is given at 2 months of age, the second dose at 4 months, the third dose at 6 months and the fourth dose between 12 and 15 months. The catch-up schedule should be referenced when doses are missed.

A combination of PCV13 and Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine(PPSV23) are used to protect adults 65 years of age and older against pneumococcal disease. View the ACIP's updated pneumococcal vaccination recommendation for adults.

Children 6–18 years old and adults 19-64 years old with immunocompromising conditions also need pneumococcal vaccines. Learn about the specific recommendations for these populations.

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