Vaccination can protect both children and adults from pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can spread from person to person through close contact. It can cause ear infections, and it can also lead to more serious infections of the:
•Blood (bacteremia), and
•Covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
Pneumococcal pneumonia is most common among adults. Pneumococcal meningitis can cause deafness and brain damage, and it kills about 1 child in 10 who get it. Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but children under 2 years of age and adults 65 years and older, people with certain medical conditions, and cigarette smokers are at the highest risk. Before there was a vaccine, the United States saw:
•more than 700 cases of meningitis,
•about 13,000 blood infections,
•about 5 million ear infections, and
•about 200 deaths in children under 5 each year from pneumococcal disease.
Since vaccine became available, severe pneumococcal disease in these children has fallen by 88%. About 18,000 older adults die of pneumococcal disease each year in the United States. Treatment of pneumococcal infections with penicillin and other drugs is not as effective as it used to be, because some strains of the disease have become resistant to these drugs. This makes prevention of the disease, through vaccination, even more important.
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