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Risk Factors & Transmission

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some people are at greater risk for disease than others. Being a certain age or having some medical conditions can put you at increased risk for pneumococcal disease.


Children at Risk for Pneumococcal Disease

Children at higher risk for pneumococcal disease include those:

daycare
  • Younger than 2 years of age
  • In group child care
  • Who have certain illnesses (sickle cell disease, HIV infection, and chronic heart or lung conditions)
  • With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)

In addition, some American Indian, Alaska Native, and African American children may also be at increased risk.


Adults at Risk for Pneumococcal Disease

If you’re at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, talk to your doctor about when to get a pneumococcal vaccine.

Adults 65 years of age and older are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease.

Some adults 19 through 64 years of age are also at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, including those:

  • With chronic illnesses (lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes; or alcoholism)
  • With conditions that weaken the immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen)
  • Living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)
  • Who smoke cigarettes

Transmission

Pneumococcal bacteria spread from person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory secretions, like saliva or mucus. Many people, especially children, have the bacteria in their nose or throat at one time or another without being ill. This is called “carriage.” Doctors do not know why carriage only rarely leads to sickness.

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