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Wellness and Prevention
Immunizations: Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a lung disease that can be caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria, and sometimes fungi. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an infection in the lungs caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. S. pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus, can infect the upper respiratory tracts of adults and children and can spread to the blood, lungs, middle ear, or nervous system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates S. pneumoniae causes 40,000 deaths and 500,000 cases of pneumonia annually in the United States. Annually, there are twice as many cases of pneumococcal pneumonia in African Americans than in whites. The disease is responsible for 3,000 cases of meningitis (inflammation of lining of the spinal cord), 50,000 cases of bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and 7 million cases of otitis media (inner ear infection) in the United States.

Pneumococcal pneumonia mainly causes illness in children younger than 2 years old and adults 65 years of age or older. The elderly are especially at risk of getting seriously ill and dying from this disease. In addition, people with certain medical conditions such as chronic heart, lung, or liver diseases or sickle cell anemia are also at increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia. People with HIV infection, AIDS, or people who have had organ transplants and are taking medicines that lower their resistance to infection are also at high risk of getting this disease.


At any given time, the noses and throats of up to 70 percent of healthy people contain pneumococcus. Children, generally, harbor more of the bacteria than adults. Pneumococcus is spread through breathing the bacteria into the lungs, bypassing normal immune system defenses. Researchers don't know what causes it to suddenly invade the lungs and the bloodstream to cause disease.


Pneumococcal pneumonia may begin suddenly, with a severe shaking chill usually followed by

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pains

    There may be other symptoms as well

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches


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