Under 65? You Could Still Be At Risk Of Pneumococcal Disease

Are You At Risk of Penumococcal Disease If You Are Under 65 Years Old?

Pneumonia is a serious disease that can be fatal for those who are affected by it. In 2019, it remains the principal cause of death among Malaysian women, and the second leading cause of death amongst Malaysian men2.

Pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common kind of bacterial pneumonia3, is an infectious and potentially serious bacterial lung disease. Unlike common colds that are caused by viruses, pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by bacteria and can cause severe symptoms4.

Globally, pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness5, and can affect anyone6. Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus7.

Streptococcus pneumoniae can spread from the nose and throat to the upper and lower respiratory tract. Though it may be common, pneumococcal disease can sometimes result in serious health problems such as middle ear infections, blood infections, pneumonia, or bacterial meningitis8.

There are pneumococcal vaccinations that act as important preventive healthcare measures and can substantially reduce the healthcare burden of pneumococcal disease in vaccinated individuals and in the population1.

However, it’s crucial to first understand the types of pneumococcal disease and their aftereffects.

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio @ Pexels

What are the types of pneumococcal disease?

There are two main types of pneumococcal disease: non-invasive pneumococcal diseases and invasive pneumococcal diseases8.

Non-invasive pneumococcal diseases generally occur outside the major organs or the blood, potentially leading to:

     Otitis media, which results in the inflammation of the middle ear. Symptoms usually include fluid in the middle ear, swelling of the eardrum, and earache. If the eardrum becomes perforated, fluid may drain into the ear canal8.

     Acute bronchitis, an inflammation of the airways that can last up to 3 weeks and results in a cough with the production of mucus8.

     Sinusitis is a common condition causing inflammation of the sinuses in a person’s skull. Its symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead8.

If you have been experiencing these symptoms persistently, speak to a healthcare physician today.



Photo credit: Olga Kononenko

Invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPDs) are more serious than non-invasive pneumococcal diseases. They occur inside a major organ or in a person’s blood8. These may include:

     Bacteremia – a bacterial infection of the blood causes this condition. It can be fatal and often progresses rapidly to sepsis. Symptoms include fever, chills, and reduced alertness8.

     Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death9. Symptoms include fever, chills, clammy skin, confusion, a rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and severe pain8.

     Meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges, which are the three membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord. Its symptoms include a stiff neck, a headache, confusion, sensitivity to light, and a fever. However, symptoms can vary, and some may not appear at all8.

     Pneumonia, a serious lung disease. Symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, a cough, a fever, and chills8.

     Other infections, such as osteomyelitis – an infection that affects bones – and septic arthritis, an infection in your joints8.

All IPDs require medical treatment and should be attended to by medical professionals.

Who are at risk of pneumococcal disease?

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease6, but people with health problems or weakened immune systems face a greater risk of contracting it10.

These chronic conditions include:

        Chronic heart diseases, such as heart failure and cardiomyopathy1.

        Chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases1.

        Poorly controlled diabetes mellitus1.

        Those who smoke1.

People between the ages of 19 and 64 years old with these chronic conditions are recommended to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease1.

Those who are immunocompromised are also at higher risk of contracting severe pneumococcal diseases1. These include those who suffer from:

        HIV infection1,11.

        Sickle cell disease or other hemoglobinopathies1,12.

HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus

Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto

What measures can I take to prevent pneumococcal disease?

Immunisation has been shown to reduce the prevalence of pneumococci by reducing the strains resistant to antibiotics13. Like all other vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines encourage your body to produce antibodies – which are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms or toxins – that fight against pneumococcal bacteria14.

Besides getting vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, practicing good general hygiene by washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, as well as keeping to healthy lifestyle choices through maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate rest are also vital in preventing pneumococcal disease15.

For more information on pneumococcal vaccinations, or if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, do reach out to a healthcare professional to get the medical attention and advice you need.


1.       Pneumococcal Vaccination in Adults | https://tinyurl.com/54m282dd | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

2.       Statistics on Cause of Death, Malaysia, 2020 | https://tinyurl.com/67wwab2z | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

3.       Get The Facts About Pneumococcal Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/4uk2ur8s | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

4.       About Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/k5nbztj3 | Accessed 10 Jan 2022

5.       Pneumococcal Disease | https://tinyurl.com/345mpwuf | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

6.       Pneumococcal Disease: Risk Factors and Transmission, CDC | https://tinyurl.com/yc7sjnfk | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

7.       Pneumococcal Disease, CDC | https://tinyurl.com/ycyknw9t | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

8.       Pneumococcal disease: Causes, How it spreads, and Symptoms | https://tinyurl.com/27s529su | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

9.       What Is Sepsis | https://tinyurl.com/3pytratp | Accessed on 10 Jan 2022

10.    Pneumococcal Disease, Better Health Channel | https://tinyurl.com/57cxxe4p | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022

11.    Bacterial pneumonia - HIV Management Guidelines | https://tinyurl.com/2p8wembz | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022

12.    Hemoglobinopathies | https://tinyurl.com/2p8uj6m2 | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022

13.    Impact Of Existing Vaccines In Reducing Antibiotic Resistance, PNAS | https://tinyurl.com/dzebsjmw | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022

14.    Pneumococcal Vaccine Overview | https://tinyurl.com/2p8hash9 | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022

15.    How to Prevent Pneumonia | https://tinyurl.com/yc6kepy3 | Accessed on 11 Jan 2022


The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

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