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What are streptococcus pneumoniae?

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Streptococcus pneumoniae are bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease and may lead to conditions such as pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, meningitis and bacteremia, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria are infectious, and can be spread through contact with an infected person, coughing and sneezing.

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Fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain and disorientation are symptoms of pneumococcal disease, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms vary depending on the part of the body that is affected, and in severe cases people may suffer from hearing loss, brain damage or death. People who are 65 and older, children younger than 2 years old, and people who have weakened immune systems due to conditions such as diabetes, HIV or lung disease are at higher risk of contracting pneumococcal disease following exposure to streptococcus pneumoniae.

People can help prevent contracting streptococcus pneumoniae-related conditions by washing their hands frequently and using hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, advises the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. They can also reduce their risk by not touching their eyes, nose or mouth and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. The pneumococcal vaccine also helps protect those at risk of contracting pneumococcal disease. People who suspect they have pneumococcal disease should avoid contact with others and consult a medical professional, especially if they have a fever.

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