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Pneumococcal disease

Learn about pneumococcal disease, who is at risk, and how it spreads.

About pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria. It can lead to lung, airway, blood, and middle-ear infections and meningitis (an infection of the fluid and lining that cover the brain and spinal cord).

Pneumococcal disease is a common cause of bacterial blood infections and meningitis in young children, and bacterial pneumonia (a type of lung infection) in adults.

It causes 500,000 deaths worldwide each year in children under age 5 years. When adults with pneumococcal disease have an infection in their lungs and blood, as many as 1 in 14 could die. The risk of dying may be higher as you get older.

Who is most at risk?

You’re most at risk of having a serious infection if:

  • You are very young or very old.
  • You are a child who attends day care.
  • You have certain chronic health problems.
  • You smoke.
  • You have an alcohol or substance use problem.

How it spreads

Pneumococcal disease spreads through droplets of saliva (spit) and mucus when coughing, sneezing, kissing, and sharing things such as food or toys.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still spread the disease.

Current as of: June 30, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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