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Streptococcus pneumonia

Invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae in children less than 5 years is a reportable disease in Oklahoma. Streptococcus pneumoniae causes many illnesses including ear and sinus infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections (bacteremia), and meningitis (inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). The symptoms of S. pneumoniae infections vary according to where the infection occurs. S. pneumoniae may also be present in the throat or on the skin without causing any symptoms or illness at all. When Streptococcus pneumoniae organisms are present in a part of the body that is normally sterile such as the bloodstream or spinal fluid, it is called an “invasive” infection, and is more likely to require hospitalization. Strep is the most common cause of community-associated pneumonia, which can cause severe and life-threatening illness in infants and the elderly.

Streptococcus pneumoniae can be spread by respiratory secretions from infected people, or by contact with drainage from skin infections. You can help prevent Streptococcus pneumoniae infections by careful and frequent hand washing, especially after contact with respiratory secretions or items that may be contaminated with the bacteria. Remember to cover your own cough with a tissue, then throw it away and wash your hands immediately. If your hands are not visibly dirty, and you are not near a sink, use an alcohol-based hand gel. If you follow the instructions on the product, the hand gels are as good as soap and water in these situations.

Although anyone can get pneumococcal disease, it occurs more often in young children, the elderly, or in people with other health conditions such as lung, heart, or kidney disease. Others at risk include alcoholics, diabetics, people with sickle-cell anemia, people with altered immune systems such as HIV/AIDS, or those without a spleen (asplenia).

Streptococcus pneumonia is a reportable disease in Oklahoma in children 5 years or younger. Additionally, Streptococcal disease, invasive, Group A (GAS) is also reportable. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the pneumococcal vaccination for all children under 2 years old, older adults (65 years and older), and older children and adults at increased risk. 

Additionally, washing your hands is the another way to protect yourself and stop the spread of Streptococcus pneumonia to others and yourself. Wash dirty hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

If you think you are ill with Streptococcus pneumonia, contact your healthcare provider. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, ear pain, cough, chest pain, confusion, shortness of breath and occasionally stiff neck and eye pain when looking at bright lights. Babies may have poor eating and drinking, low alertness, and vomiting. The symptoms usually start one to three days after infection.