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Pneumococcal disease: what you need to know and how to protect yourself

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A nurse immunizes a woman.
Immunization is a great way to avoid pneumococcal disease.

During this time of year, you often hear about the flu, but you might not have heard about pneumococcal (pronounced “NEW-mo-coke-al”) disease.

What is pneumococcal disease?

It’s a serious infection that’s caused by bacteria that attack different parts of the body and is one of the most common complications of getting the flu.

Some of the more common forms of pneumococcal have similar symptoms to pneumonia, like coughing, fever, chest pain, and fatigue.

The disease can cause ear and sinus infections, vomiting, and neck stiffness. It can also cause serious and life-threatening infections including pneumonia and meningitis (an infection of the lining that covers the brain).

Who can get it?

Anyone can get pneumococcal, but people with the highest risk of getting it are those under age two, those over 65, and those with medical conditions like heart disease, etc.

How to protect yourself

Some of the best things to do protect yourself are:

  • Get vaccinated 
  • Wash your hands
  • Stay home when sick

Ask your health care provider or local pharmacist if you need this vaccine. For some people, it may be free.

If you think you might qualify for the vaccine, talk to your health care provider

For more information, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control: Pneumococcal disease