Risks at a glance:

  • Ear infection
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord)
  • Death

About the disease:
Pneumococcal disease is caused by infection with the bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Infections are more common in winter and spring, and small children, and the elderly are most at risk from the disease The symptoms of pneumococcal disease depend on the site of infection and the age of the person:

Pneumonia causes shortness of breath, fever, lack of energy, loss of appetite, headache, chest pain, and cough.

Ear infections can cause crying, tugging at the ear, fever, irritability, poor hearing, and sometimes diarrhoea and vomiting.

Meningitis causes fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.

How is it spread:
The bacteria often live harmlessly in the throat of healthy people, but sometimes these bacteria will cause an infection.

The infection is treated with antibiotics along with paracetamol to control the fever and pain, and fluids to prevent dehydration.

Impact of pneumococcal:
The World Health Organization estimates that pneumococcal kills almost half a million children under 5 years old worldwide every year, with most of these deaths occurring in developing countries and areas without access pneumococcal vaccines.

Vaccination can prevent pneumococcal infection with the vaccine being up to 96% effective.

Real life stories:
A mum talks about losing her daughter to pneumococcal
Nathaniel’s mum writes about his experience with pneumococcal meningitis here.