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What is pneumococcal disease?

Page last updated 30 January 2020

Pneumococcal disease refers to the group of illnesses that can be caused by bacteria commonly known as pneumococcus. 

Most pneumococcal infections are mild, however some can cause serious disease, complications and even death. 

From the upper airways, pneumococcus can cause infections in different parts of the body, such as the ear (otitis media, one of the most common pneumococcal diseases in children), sinuses, joints or bone. Sometimes it causes serious illness like:
•    meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain)
•    pneumonia (infection of the lungs – one of the most common pneumococcal diseases in adults)
•    septicaemia (blood infection).

In adults, pneumonia with bacteraemia (presence of bacteria in the blood) accounts for 14% of cases of pneumonia in the community.4

In children, middle ear infection is a common complication. In fact pneumococcus is the main cause of middle ear infection in children, found in around 50% of cases. Although the least common presentation in children, pneumococcal meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain) is a serious complication, which is fatal in around 30% of cases.3

Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government. Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook -Pneumococcal disease. Available at: (accessed 20 January 2020).
  2. Yin JL et al. Med J Aust 2017;207(9):396-400. 

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0149a1 - Date of preparation May 2018