What is pneumococcal infection?
Pneumococcal infection is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). While pneumococcus is a common cause of mild illnesses such as sinus or middle ear infections, it may also cause severe or even life-threatening invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPD) such as bacteremic pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. The outcomes for IPD are usually more severe among young children and elderly persons.
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Symptoms of pneumococcal infection
Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause middle ear infection, chest infection (pneumonia), meningitis, and sepsis. The infection can be serious or even life-threatening.
- Middle ear infection can present with fever, ear pain and sometimes discharge. It may lead to hearing loss in recurrent infection.
- Chest infection (pneumonia) can present with fever, shortness of breath, chills and productive cough. It may result in death in severe cases.
- Meningitis can present with fever, stiff neck and confusion. It may result in long-term hearing loss or even death.
- Sepsis can present with joint pain and chills. It may also present along with infection at other sites, such as pneumonia and meningitis.
Mode of transmission
Pneumococci are carried on human bodies. They are present in the upper respiratory tracts even in healthy carriers. They mainly spread through droplets via coughing and sneezing, close contact with the patients or contact with materials soiled with the bacteria.
- Young children
- The elderly
- Persons with
- weakened immunity, such as asplenic patients, cancer patients, HIV/ AIDS patients
- chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus
- cochlear (inner ear) implants
Influenza predisposes individuals to community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. Secondary bacterial pneumonia is an important cause of morbidity and mortality for those infected with influenza. Data from a local study shows that dual vaccination with influenza vaccine and pneumococcal vaccines can lower the risk of hospitalisation and mortality among elderly people.
Both 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) can be given together with seasonal influenza vaccine, but they should be administered with a different syringe and at a different injection site.
COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered with, or at any time before or after, pneumococcal vaccines under informed consent.
The disease can be treated with appropriate antibiotics. However, the emergence of drug-resistant strains of pneumococci has made treatment more difficult.
- There are several types of pneumococcal vaccines. They are safe and effective.
- Newborns should follow the schedule recommended for vaccination
- Elders aged 65 years or above should also get a pneumococcal vaccination.
- Persons in the high-risk groups should consult their family doctors on having the vaccination for personal protection.
Maintain good personal hygiene
- Perform hand hygiene frequently
- Cover your nose and mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing.
- Wear a surgical mask when having respiratory symptoms, refrain from work or attending class at school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly.
- Build up good body immunity by having a balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid alcohol consumption.
Pneumococcal vaccine is available at our clinic, please talk with our staff for details.