Pneumococcal disease is caused by infection with the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. Infection can cause a variety of diseases including: pneumonia (infection of the lungs), otitis media (infection of the middle ear) and meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord).
Symptoms depend on the site of infection and the age of the person, as described below:
The bacteria often live harmlessly in the throat of healthy people. Occasionally these bacteria will cause an infection.
People most at risk for the infection include:
Pneumococcal infections are more common in winter and early spring. These are also the times when outbreaks in childcare centres, nursing homes, and other institutions are more common.
Pneumococcal vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. Pneumococcal vaccines are provided free for the following groups.
Pneumococcal vaccine (13 valent pneumococcal conjugant vaccine 13vPCV) is recommended and available free for all children at 2, 4 and 12 months of age as part of the routine child immunisation schedule (children can receive their 1st dose as early as 6 weeks).
Children with certain medical conditions (listed below) associated with an increased risk of invasive pneumococcal infection will receive an extra dose of 13vPCV at 6 months (i.e. at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months).
At risk medical conditions (please refer to the at risk conditions for pneumococcal disease https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/resources/tables/list-risk-conditions-for-pneumococcal-disease) associated with pneumococcal infection are:
For children with the above medical conditions a dose of the adult vaccine (23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine 23vPPV) is recommended at 4 years of age and a second dose at least 5 years later. Please discuss with your local doctor.
Pneumococcal vaccine is free and should be given to:
These people should receive a single dose of 13vPCV at diagnosis, plus 1 dose of 23vPPV 12 months after 13vPCV or at age 4 years, whichever is later, plus a 2nd dose of 23vPPV at least 5 years after the first dose of 23vPPV. Please see the Australian Immunisation Handbook for further information.
Your doctor can diagnose pneumococcal disease by the symptoms, an examination, and by doing some tests. Test may include a chest x-ray, and taking samples to look for the bacteria in the infected part of your body (e.g. blood or cerebrospinal fluid).
Treatment includes antibiotics, medicine to control the fever and pain, and fluids to prevent dehydration.
Laboratories must confidentially notify cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (where the bacteria is located in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid or other sterile site) to the local public health unit.
Public health unit staff will talk to the treating doctor and patient or their family to identify risk factors that the patient may have, and to enquire about vaccination history. Close contacts of cases are not usually at increased risk of infection and don't require follow up.
For further information please call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.