Pneumococcal infection is caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). There are more than 90 serotypes of pneumococci.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common causative agent for middle ear infection (acute otitis media) and chest infection (pneumonia). It may also cause various forms of invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPD), such as infection of the brain membranes (meningitis) and blood stream (septicaemia). The infection can be serious or even life-threatening.
Depending on the condition, the features for various types of presentations include:
Middle ear infection (otitis media) presents with fever, ear pain and sometimes with discharge. It may lead to hearing loss in recurrent infection.
Chest infection (pneumonia) presents with fever, shortness of breath, chills and productive cough. It may result in death in severe cases.
Infection of the brain membranes (meningitis) presents with fever, stiff neck and confusion, and results in long-term hearing loss or even death.
Infection of the blood stream (septicaemia) presents with symptoms similar to pneumonia and meningitis along with joint pain and chills.
Mode of transmission
Pneumococci are commonly found in the nose and throat of healthy people, particularly in children. They mainly spread through droplets via coughing, sneezing, close contact with the patient or contact with materials soiled with the bacteria.
About 1-3 days.
High risk groups
- history of IPD
- weakened immunity, such as cancer patients, HIV / AIDS patients
- chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus
- cochlear (inner ear) implants
The disease can normally be treated with appropriate.antibiotics such as penicillin. However, some of the bacteria have become resistant to penicillin and make treatment more difficult.
The emergence of drug-resistant pneumococci makes prevention more important. There are effective vaccines to prevent the disease. People should have vaccination as indicated for protection, and maintain hygiene practices to prevent the spread of disease.
There are several types of pneumococcal vaccines. They are safe and effective. The type and number of doses required depend on recipient's age.
Newborns should follow the schedule recommended in the "Childhood Immunisation Programme" for vaccination. Their parents may consult family doctors or Maternal and Child Health Centres for details.
Elders aged 65 years or above should get 1 dose of pneumococcal vaccination if they have never had it before. They may get either free or subsidised pneumococcal vaccines under the "Government Vaccination Programme" or "Elderly Vaccination Subsidy Scheme".
High risk persons should consult family doctors on having the vaccination for personal protection.
Observe hygiene practices
Wash hands frequently to keep the hands clean.
Cover your mouth and/or nose with
tissue paper when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of the soiled tissues properly, e.g. into a rubbish bin with lid, and then wash hands thoroughly.
Maintain good ventilation in indoor areas; if feeling unwell, avoid visiting crowded or poorly ventilated public places.
If having respiratory tract infection symptoms, put on a surgical mask.