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Pneumococcal Disease

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Streptococcus Pneumoniae

Streptococcus pneumoniae are bacteria frequently found in the upper respiratory tract of healthy children and adults. These bacteria, however, can also cause a range of infections—from relatively mild ear infections to fatal pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Serious pneumococcal infections can occur throughout life, but children under 2 years old and the elderly are at highest risk.

Serious pneumococcal infections are a major global health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 1.6 million people—including more than 800,000 children under 5 years old—die every year from pneumococcal infections. Nearly all these deaths occur in the world’s poorest countries. Pneumococcal meningitis is the most severe form of pneumococcal disease and one of the most fatal childhood illnesses. In developing countries, it kills or disables 40 to 70 percent of children who get it.

The primary causes of death from pneumococcus are pneumonia, in which fluid fills the lungs, hindering oxygen from reaching the bloodstream; meningitis, an infection of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain; and sepsis, an overwhelming infection of the bloodstream by toxin-producing bacteria.

 
 
 
 
 

Last Updated January 31, 2014