The Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. has reported an outbreak of pneumococcal disease at homeless shelters in Santa Barbara.

Seven cases of the disease have been confirmed and two more are still suspected. All nine of those people were hospitalized, but five have already been released.

The first cases were reported early last week at the local chapters of Casa Esperanza homeless shelter, the Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army shelter. On Thursday and Friday, 140 people were immunized. Public health teams will be present at these shelters through today to provide antibiotic treatment and immunization. According to the Public Health Dept., anyone who has stayed at these shelters in the past 72 hours should be immunized.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is an airborne contagion spread by droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person. The bacterium can cause pneumonia if it infects the lungs, meningitis if it infects the lining of the brain and other infections in the blood stream and sinus cavities. Outbreaks of pneumococcal disease occur mostly in group-living situations such as nursing homes, homeless shelters and daycare centers.