Pneumococci are a bacterium that can occur normally in the nose and throat in both children and adults without causing any symptoms. About half of all children attending preschool are estimated to be carriers of pneumococci. Sometimes the bacterium can take root in the lower respiratory tract or spread to other organs and cause e.g. sepsis or meningitis. This can happen if the airways are temporarily affected due to another concomitant disease such as the flu or if you take immunosuppressive medication or have an affected immune system related to your age. The latter is the reason why the disease mainly affects young children and the elderly.
Pneumococci are the most common cause of bacterial respiratory infections and occur worldwide. There are about 90 different known types of pneumococci. Pneumococci can be spread between people through sneezing, coughing or close contact.
Symptoms and complications
The symptoms of pneumococcal infection vary depending on the organ affected. In case of respiratory infection, ear and sinusitis, you can get fever, headache, cough and pain in the ears or sinuses, while symptoms of pneumonia can be chest pain, difficulty breathing, cough, fever, chills and fatigue.
Symptoms of meningitis can include fever, headache, nausea, fatigue and stiffness in the neck. With blood poisoning, fever, chills and pain in muscles and joints are common. Cold, moist and sometimes blue marbled skin also occurs – especially on the hands and feet. You are also usually strongly influenced in general.
Treatment of pneumococci
Pneumococcal infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Two types of pneumococcal vaccine
In Stockholm and Uppsala during the flu season, the elderly (> 65 years) and risk groups are offered free vaccination against pneumococci that protects against 23 different types of pneumococci.
The vaccine is given as an injection into the upper arm. The protection lasts for several years and it is usually not recommended that the vaccination is repeated. Vaccine against pneumococci can be taken at the same time as the flu vaccine.
During the flu season, special risk groups are offered an additional vaccine that protects against 13 types of pneumococci. The vaccine is also available for a fee for others who want optimal protection against pneumococci. The vaccine has also been part of the national childhood vaccination program in Sweden since 2009. A vaccination also reduces the carrier of pneumococci.