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Pneumoccocal Disease

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Pneumococcal disease is an infection that is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumococcal infections range from being mild to severe ear and sinus infections, pneumonia as well as septicemia. Pneumococcal disease is very common in children under the age of two years. This disease can easily be prevented with the help of vaccinations.

About Pneumoccocal Disease

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium that leads to acute bacterial infection.It is a gram-positive facultative anaerobic organism. These organisms an be encapsulated. The ones that are encapsulated are considered pathogenic to humans. Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus causes invasive as well as non-invasive pneumococcal disease. Pneumonia, meningitis and septicemia are considered as invasive pneumococcoal diseases. Middle ear infections, sinusitis and bronchitis are considered as non-invasive pneumoccal diseases. The invasive form is considered dangerous as it leads to high morbidity and mortality.

Who Are At Risk of Pneumoccocal Disease?

Pneumocccocal disease strikes those who have a weak immune system. These people with weak immune defense include:

  • Infants under the age of 2 years or adults over the age of 65 years
  • Alcoholics
  • People who take medications that weakens the immune system like those on chemotherapy
  • People with severe health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, lung diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDS
  • Chronic smokers
  • People who have cochlear implants

Signs and Symptoms of Pneumoccocal Disease

The signs of pneumoccal disease are similar to the symptoms one usually visits their family doctor for like headaches, rash, etc. Some of the common signs and symptoms of non-specific pneumococcal disease include:

  • Fever
  • Sweat and chills
  • Headache
  • Body ache and pain
  • Malaise

Other signs and symptoms are specific to the specific condition. These include:

  • High heart rate, rapid breathing, etc. in case of pneumococcal bacteremia.
  • Nausea, vomiting, irritability, stiff neck, seizures, in some cases, coma, in case of pneumococcoal meningitis.
  • Cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, in case of pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • Earache, ear discharge, temporary hearing loss in case of pneumococcal otitis media.

How Does Pneumococcal Pneumonia Spread?

Pneumococcal bacteria can spread from person-to-person. Itis usually due to direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva. The bacteria are present in the nasopharynx region of healthy adults and children. It spreads in people who live in close proximity of each other like day care centers, hostel, etc.

Diagnosis of Pnemococcal Disease

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Based on the infection, the doctor will ask for a lab test of a specific sample like blood, urine, CBS fluid, sputum, peritoneal fluid, fluid aspirate, etc. The sample will be cultured on blood agar plates. The blood agar will be added with optochin antibiotic disk, that will show a clear zone of inhibition. This proves these organisms are sensitive to the antibiotic. Other tests to identify the organism includes bile solubility, catalase-negative and Quellung test to identify capsular polysaccharides.

Treatment Options for Pneumococcal Disease

Treatment for pneumococcal disease includes antibiotics like penicillin. The patient will be also be given pain medications, plenty of fluids and may have to be admitted in the hospital for meningitis or septicemia.

Vaccination Against Pneumococcal Disease

There are over 90 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia and vaccination helps against most of the common strain. There are two types of vaccines against Streptococcus pneumoniae. They include pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine and pneumoccal conjugate vaccine. The pneumococcal polysaccharide is the most common vaccine used today.

Pneumococcal diseases usually strike young children and people with weak immune system. Thus, making them susceptible to invasive as well as non-invasive pneumococcal diseases. Make sure youget your children and yourself vaccinated against Streptoccocus pneumonia to avoid any of the infections caused by this organism.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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