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Can Pneumococcal be prevented and are there treatment options?

Image source: CDC PHIL

Illnesses that can be spread by respiratory secretions can also be prevented by:1

  • Washing hands thoroughly or using hand sanitizer when handwashing is not available
  • Staying home when ill
  • Staying home when you have been exposed to illness and may be contagious
  • Using a tissue when sneezing or coughing

If invasive pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis or bacteremia infection is suspected, blood or cerebrospinal fluid should be collected for testing. Identification and confirmation of the specific bacteria is important as it allows clinicians to select the most appropriate antibiotic to decrease the risk of severe infection.2 Non-invasive pneumococcal pneumonia in adults can be diagnosed by a simple rapid urine test. This test can also help in the selection of antibiotics for treatment.3

Ear and sinus infections are usually diagnosed based on health history and physical examination.4 As there are multiple strains of S. pneumoniae, it is often difficult to determine which strain is responsible for a given infection, or which antibiotic will be most effective. Over-prescription of ineffective antibiotics has contributed to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.5 6

The treatment of invasive pneumococcal infection usually begins with the use of an antibiotic that can target a number of different strains of bacteria. When lab results confirm the type of bacteria, a more selective and targeted antibiotic may be used instead.7 Oral antibiotics are prescribed for mild infections, however, more serious infections require antibiotics to be administered intravenously. In some cases, hospitalization will be required due to the severity of this illness.8 Many types of bacteria, including pneumococcal bacteria, have become resistant to antibiotics as a direct result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics.9 10

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Pneumococcal and the Pneumococcal vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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1 CDC Personal NPIs: Everyday Preventive Actions. Aug. 2, 2017

2 CDC Pneumococcal Disease - Diagnosis and Treatment. Sept. 6, 2017

3 CDC Pneumococcal Disease For Clinicians – Diagnosis and Medical Management. Sept. 6, 2017

4 CDC Pneumococcal Disease - Diagnosis and Treatment. Sept. 6, 2017

5 World Health Organization.  Global priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to guide research, discovery, and development of new antibiotics Feb. 27, 2017

6 Harboe ZB, Larsen MV, Ladelund S, et al.  Incidence and Risk Factors for Invasive Pneumococcal Disease in HIV-Infected and Non-HIV-Infected Individuals Before and After the Introduction of Combination Antiretroviral Therapy:  Persistent High Risk Among HIV-Infected Injecting Drug Users. Clin Infect Dis.  2014; 59(8): 1168-76.

7 CDC Pneumococcal Disease - Diagnosis and Treatment. Sept. 6, 2017

8 The MNT Editorial Team What are the Treatment Options for Pneumococcal Disease? MedicalNewsToday. Jan. 5, 2018

9 FDA Combating Antibiotic Resistance. Sept. 10, 2018

10 CDC ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE THREATS in the United States, 2013. – Drug Resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae 2013. Page 79.

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