Pneumococcal Pneumonia

(This information is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a doctor or a recommendation for any particular treatment plan. Like any printed material, it may become out of date over time. It is important that you rely on the advice of a doctor for your specific condition.)


Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and sometimes fungi. Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. S. pneumoniae is also called pneumococcus.

Pneumococcus is spread through contact with people who are ill or who carry the bacteria in their throat. You can get pneumococcal pneumonia from respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person. It is common for people, especially children, to carry the bacteria in their throats without being sick.

Pneumococcal pneumonia may begin suddenly. You may first have a severe shaking chill which is usually followed by:
• High fever
• Cough
• Shortness of breath
• Rapid breathing
• Chest pains

Other symptoms may include:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Headache
• Tiredness
• Muscle aches

Your healthcare provider usually will prescribe antibiotics to treat this disease. The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia usually go away within 12 to 36 hours after you start taking medicine.

Some bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, however, are now capable of resisting and fighting off antibiotics. Such antibiotic resistance is increasing worldwide because these medicines have been overused or misused. Therefore, if you are at risk of getting pneumococcal pneumonia, you should talk with your healthcare provider about what you can do to prevent it. Getting the pneumococcal vaccine is the main way you can reduce your chances of getting pneumococcal pneumonia. Vaccines are available for children and adults.

Routine use of vaccine is not recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you get the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine if you are in any of the following groups:
• You are 65 years old or older
• You are 19 through 64 years of age who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma.
• You have a serious long-term health problem such as heart disease, sickle cell disease, alcoholism, lung disease, diabetes, or liver cirrhosis
• Your resistance to infection is lowered due to
   o Lymphoma, leukemia, or other cancers
   o Cancer treatment with X-rays or medicines
   o Treatment with long-term steroid medicines
   o Bone marrow or organ transplant
   o Kidney failure or kidney syndrome
   o Damaged spleen or no spleen

CDC also recommends that all babies and children younger than 59 months old get the pneumococcal vaccine. Contact your healthcare provider to find out whether you or your child should be vaccinated to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia.

(Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)