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Pneumonia & Pneumococcal Vaccine Information

What is pneumonia?

Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world. The disease is caused by a common bacterium, the pneumococcus, which can attack different parts of the body. When bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. When bacteria invade the bloodstream, they cause a condition caused bacteremia. When they invade the covering of the brain, they cause meningitis. Pneumococci may also cause otitis media (middle ear infection) and sinusitis.

Currently there are more than 90 known pneumococcal types; the ten most common types account for approximately 62 percent of invasive disease worldwide. Death from pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death in America from a vaccine-preventable disease.

What are symptoms of pneumonia?

Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include high fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

How is pneumonia transmitted?

Pneumococcus bacteria exists in many people's noses and throats and is spread by coughing, sneezing, or contact with respiratory secretions. It is unknown why these bacteria sometimes suddenly invade the body and cause disease.

Who is at risk for pneumonia?

Anyone can get pneumonia. However, some groups are at particularly high risk for pneumonia or its complications. These groups include:

  • Persons aged 65 and older;
  • Individuals with weak immune systems due to cancer, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV);
  • Persons with sickle cell disease or without a functioning spleen;
  • Individuals who have a chronic illness such as lung, heart, and kidney disease, diabetes and alcoholism;
  • Persons living in special environments or communities, such as Alaskan Natives and certain American Indian populations; and
  • Residents of chronic or long-term care facilities.

How can I protect myself and my family from pneumonia?

The best way to protect against pneumonia is through vaccination. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines currently available: a polysaccharide vaccine and a conjugate vaccine.

Does everyone need to be vaccinated against both the flu and pneumonia?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot. The CDC also recommends that all adults 65 years and older get a pneumonia vaccination. Additionally, the CDC suggests pneumonia vaccines for:

    • anyone 2 through 64 years old who has a long term health problem such as:
      • Heart disease
      • Lung disease
      • Sickle cell disease
      • Diabetes
      • Alcoholism
      • Cirrhosis
      • Leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or cochlear implant
      • Hodgkin’s disease
      • Lymphoma or leukemia
      • Kidney failure
      • Multiple myeloma
      • Nephrotic syndrome
      • HIV infection or AIDS
      • Damaged spleen, or no spleen
      • Organ transplant
    • anyone taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body’s resistance to infection such as steroids or cancer drugs and
    • Any adult 19 through 64 years old who is a smoker or who has asthma.
    • NOTE: The pneumonia vaccine (PPSV) may be less effective for some people, especially those with lower resistance to infection. But these people should still be vaccinated, because they are more likely to have serious complications if they get pneumococcal disease.
Learn More About Pneumonia
Symptoms Cough with greenish or yellow mucus; bloody sputum happens on occasion, Fever with shaking chills, Sharp or stabbing chest pain worsened by deep breathing or coughing, Rapid, shallow breathing, Shortness of breath, Headache, Excessive sweating and clammy skin, Loss of appetite, Excessive fatigue, Confusion, especially in older people
Encyclopedia Flu, Pneumonia, Influenza Vaccine
Tools & Resources Flu Quiz
Germ Prevention
Links CDC Flu Site
Montgomery County Government