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Disease Information / Pneumococcal


What is it

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by a bacterium that can lead to a variety of infections including meningitis, pneumonia, septicaemia, bacteraemia and middle ear and sinus infections. 1

Who is at risk and what are the symptoms

Pneumococcal infections can occur at any age, however the very young and the elderly are at the highest risk of infection and mortality rates can be high. Infection from the bacteria can cause pneumococcal pneumonia which results in high fever, chills and difficulty breathing. The infection can also cause pneumococcal meningitis, which can lead to fever, headaches, vomiting and stiffness of the neck. Symptoms of pneumococcal meningitis are difficult to distinguish from other meningitis infections. 2

How is it spread

Pneumococcal disease is spread from person to person through droplets in the air or via saliva. Some people are healthy carriers of the bacteria who don’t suffer from symptoms but can still pass on the disease. 3

How is it prevented

Pneumococcal disease is vaccine preventable and recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation. Babies are vaccinated at two, four and six months of age. The vaccination is also available for adults over 65 or those with chronic illness. 2

How is it diagnosed and treated

Pneumococcal disease can be diagnosed by a General Practitioner via an examination including a chest x- ray or taking samples of the bacteria from the blood or other infected parts of the body. Pneumococcal disease is treated with antibiotics, analgesics and medications to control fever. Fluids may be given to prevent dehydration.2

Where to get help

Urgent medical advice is recommended for the onset of pneumococcal-like symptoms. For further information on pneumococcal vaccination please contact your healthcare professional.


  1. Immunise Australia: pneumococcal
  2. NSW Health:
  3. WHO: