You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus (plural ‘pneumococci’). Pneumococci are commonly found in the upper respiratory tract of healthy people throughout the world.
There are many different types (serotypes) of pneumococci. Serotype refers to groups of microorganisms that are extremely closely related, but can be distinguished by having slightly different antigens (a foreign substance which causes the body to produce antibodies) or causing the body to produce slightly different antibodies.
Although anyone can get pneumococcal disease, it tends to occur in the elderly or in people with serious underlying medical conditions. The following groups are at higher risk:
Pneumococcal pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs which can be fatal, especially in the elderly or infants. Outbreaks of pneumococcal pneumonia are rare. When an outbreak does occur, it is usually in adults living in crowded, substandard conditions.
Invasive pneumococcal infection is a notifiable condition1
Pneumococcal infection is spread when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes small droplets containing infectious agents into the air. The droplets in the air may be breathed in by those nearby. Infection may be spread by contact with hands, tissues and other articles soiled by infected nose and throat discharges. Pneumococcal infections are more common during the winter and may be triggered by viral infections.
Infections usually involve the:
Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia may include:
People with pneumococcal meningitis often have:
The classic symptoms may be difficult to detect in infants and the child may only appear to be inactive, irritable, feeding poorly and may be vomiting.
Pneumococcal infection is diagnosed by microscopic examination and growth of the bacteria from blood, sputum or other specimens. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing in a pathology laboratory is sometimes used.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
Usually 3 to 4 days, but can vary from 1 to 10 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Effective antibiotic therapy makes people non-infectious within 24 hours. There is no need to give antibiotics to contacts who are not sick. A contact is any person who has been close enough to an infected person to be at risk of having acquired the infection from that person.
Effective antibiotic therapy is available.
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.