Streptococcus pneumoniae (Invasive) Infection
What is an invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae infection?
Streptococcus pneumoniae are bacteria that are commonly found in the nose and throat of children and adults. S. pneumoniae can infect the lungs (pneumonia) or ears (otitis media), but it is considered “invasive” when it is found in the blood, spinal fluid (e.g., meningitis), or other site that normally does not have bacteria present.
Who gets S. pneumoniae infections?
Many people carry S. pneumoniae without becoming ill. Unvaccinated children, the elderly, and other people with weakened immune systems are the most at risk for invasive infection. However, some people get an invasive infection for no apparent reason.
How is S. pneumoniae spread?
The bacteria are spread from person to person by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person during coughing or sneezing.
What are the signs and symptoms of S. pneumoniae infection?
Signs and symptoms depend on the part of the body affected. Invasive infection often includes fever, chills, and irritability. Headache, stiff neck, confusion, sleepiness, vomiting, and poor feeding can occur with meningitis.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
The incubation period varies. Signs and symptoms of infection can occur within 1-3 days after exposure, but may occur long after exposure.
When and for how long is a person able to spread S. pneumoniae?
The contagious period varies and may last for as long as the organism is present in the nose and throat. A person can no longer spread S. pneumoniae after taking the proper antibiotics for 1 to 2 days.
Does past infection with S. pneumoniae make a person immune?
No. Individuals who have had S. pneumoniae infection can get it again.
How is S. pneumoniae infection identified?
S. pneumoniae infection is diagnosed when the bacteria are grown from a specimen from an infected person.
What is the treatment for S. pneumoniae infection?
The main treatment for invasive S. pneumoniae infections is antibiotics.
What can be done to prevent the spread of S. pneumoniae?
Vaccines can help to prevent invasive S. pneumoniae infections. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 13-valent (PCV-13) is recommended for all children starting at two months up to 59 months of age. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine 23-valent (PPSV-23) is used in high-risk individuals two years of age or older. Both PCV-13 and PPSV-23 are recommended for adults; the use of these vaccines is based on lifestyle, health condition, and age. Consult with your doctor or local health department to determine if the vaccine is recommended for you.
Frequent handwashing with soap and water (or, when soap and water are not available, the use of alcohol-based hand rubs or gels) can help stop the spread of many viruses and bacteria. Not sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with other people can also help to stop the spread of germs.
Preventive treatment (e.g., antibiotics) is not generally needed for exposure to someone with an infection caused by S. pneumoniae.
How can I get more information about S. pneumoniae?
- Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/pneumococcal/
- Call your local health department. A directory of local health departments is located at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/
- Contact your doctor.
Revised November, 2016