Symptoms and Treatment of Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Pneumococcal pneumonia is a respiratory disease caused by a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract, specifically by pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) notes that the disease usually affects children under 5 years of age and adults over the age of 65, as well as adults with chronic disease or suppressed immunity. The disease is spread by close contact with infected individuals, specifically via respiratory droplets. The time from exposure to symptom onset according to the New York Department of Health is 1 to 3 days.

Symptoms of Pneumococcal Pneumonia

The symptoms of pneumonia are not specific to pneumococcal infection and mimic other respiratory diseases and infections:

-Fever (usually considered to be a temperature over 100 degrees F)

-Respiratory issues (coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, rapid breathing)

-Nausea and vomiting

-Headache, muscle aches

-Fatigue and tiredness

The congestion caused by the growth of the bacteria in the lungs can be seen on chest X-ray, which aids in diagnosis. Doctors differentiate between the types of pneumonia and determine if it is pneumococcal disease via blood, saliva, or lung fluid tests to determine the strain present in the patient.

Treatment of Pneumococcal Pneumonia

Early diagnosis and treatment prevents complications, which includes death for 14 percent of those who are hospitalized with the infection according to the New York Dept. of Health. Antibiotics are usually prescribed because the cause of the pneumonia is bacteria. The NIAID states that symptoms usually resolve 12 to 36 hours after treatment is started. Common antibiotics are penicillin and cephalosporins, but many strains of pneumococcus are exhibiting penicillin resistance.

Because of resistant pneumococcus, prevention is being stressed more and more. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two pneumococcal vaccines are available for those at risk of infection:  a conjugate vaccine known as PCV13 and a polysaccharide vaccine known as PPSV. PCV13 is recommended by the CDC for children under the age of 5 and children between 6 and 18 years of age who have certain chronic diseases. PPSV is recommended by the CDC for adults over the age of 65 and for anyone with chronic disease between the ages of 2 and 64.

Long-term health problems that are considered at-risk factors for infection or reduced immune response include smoking, asthma and other respiratory and lung diseases, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell disease, diabetes and heart disease, liver cirrhosis and alcoholism, certain cancers, previous spleen removal, long-term steroid therapy, and kidney failure.