5 Pneumococcal Infections You Need to Recognise

Get To Know The 5 Types Of Pneumococcal Infections

In Malaysia, pneumococcal disease is considered one of the more dangerous types of diseases with the potential of severe symptoms and a high rate of fatality.Fortunately, pneumococcal vaccines exists that combat against the spread and severity of the disease.

But what exactly is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus.2

Although pneumococcal diseases are common and often accompanied with just mild symptoms, they can sometimes result in serious health problems.3

The two main types of pneumococcal disease are the non-invasive pneumococcal diseases and invasive pneumococcal diseases, the latter being the more serious type of pneumococcal disease.3

Middle ear infections, such as otitis media, and sinus infections, such as sinusitis, are considered non-invasive pneumococcal diseases.

Infections such as meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia are all considered invasive pneumococcal diseases that require urgent medical treatment immediately.3

To identify these different kinds of pneumococcal diseases, we should first understand what they are, as well as the symptoms associated with them.

Five Types of Pneumococcal Diseases

Photo credit: Artem Podrez

1. Otitis media (Middle ear infection)

Otitis media is an inflammation or infection located in the middle ear which can occur as a result of a cold, sore throat, or respiratory infection.5 It is also commonly caused by pneumococcal bacteria.6

These middle ear infections are usually the result of a malfunction of the eustachian tube – the canal that links the middle ear with the throat area – which helps to equalise the pressure between the outer and middle ear.5

However, when this tube doesn’t work properly, the fluid that would normally be drained from the middle ear instead builds up. This excess fluid, located just behind the eardrum, encourages bacterial and viral growth that can lead to acute otitis media.5

Symptoms of otitis mediainclude:

  • Ear pain
  • Reddened, swollen eardrum
  • Fever
  • Sleepiness

2. Sinusitis (Sinus infection)

Sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection7, is an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining your sinuses.8

Your sinuses are four paired spaces (or cavities) in your head that are connected by narrow channels. They make thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose, which helps keep the nose clean and free from bacteria8.

However, your sinuses can get blocked and as a result they can be filled with fluids. In this condition, bacteria can grow and cause an infection known as bacterial sinusitis.8

Symptoms of sinusitisinclude:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headache
  • Mucus dripping down the throat (post-nasal drip)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Bad breath

If you have any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to reach out to a medical professional today.

Photo credit: Alex Green

3. Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation or swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

This swelling occurs due to either a bacterial or viral infection, with bacterial infections being the more severe of the two.9

Bacterial meningitis can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention.9 Several types of bacteria can cause meningitis, including the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.10

Major meningitis symptoms10 include a sudden onset of:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stiff neck

There are often other symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)

4. Bacteremia (Blood infection)

Bacteremia is a condition in which bacteria is present within the bloodstream, also colloquially known as 'blood poisoning'.

The disease is caused by many different bacteria, including the pneumococcal bacteria11.

A few common ways bacteremia occurs include transmission through medical procedures, the spread of infections from an infected body part into the bloodstream, severe injuries or burns, or via medical devices. 

In some cases, bacteremia can be asymptomatic, meaning showing no actual symptoms. However, in the cases where symptoms are present, there are potential risks for severe complications11.

When an infection is established within the bloodstream, this type of bacteremia is differentiated as septicemia. If left untreated, this bloodstream infection can result in sepsis11, the body’s extreme response to an infection. Without timely treatment, this in turn can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.12

When bacteremia results in a bloodstream infection, the symptoms11 you’ll likely experience include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shaking or shivering

If you believe you might be suffering from bacteremia, consult a medical professional to seek treatment immediately.

5. Pneumonia (Lung infection)

Pneumonia is a lung infection that happens when the air sacs in your lungs, known as alveoli, fill up with fluid. This restricts the airflow in your lungs, making it difficult for you to breathe while also hindering oxygen from entering your bloodstream.13

Pneumonia can be caused by either bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.14

Symptoms of pneumonia13 usually develop over the course of several days. These may include:

●      Chest pain when coughing or breathing.

●      A cough that produces phlegm or mucus.

●      Fatigue and a loss of appetite.

●      Fever.

●      Sweating and chills.

●      Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

●      Shortness of breath.

Risk factors and prevention

Anybody can be infected with pneumococcal disease, but some people have a higher risk of the infection or its complications compared to others.3

Those with increased riskinclude those who:

  • Are under the age of 2 or over the age of 65.
  • Have an underlying medical condition or a weakened immune system.
  • Suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or spleen dysfunction.
  • Live in long-term care facilities.
  • Frequently smoke.
  • Have hearing aids known as cochlear implants.

Although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in warding off dangerous diseases , one of the more effective preventive measures against combatting pneumococcal diseases we can take is actually vaccination.15

For anyone that belongs to this high-risk group and want to know more about the right immunisation, reach out to a medical expert today to find out more.


  1. Pneumococcal Vaccine, PORTAL MyHEALTH | https://tinyurl.com/mr2yjj89 | Accessed 16 March 2022
  2. Pneumococcal Disease | https://tinyurl.com/ycyknw9t | Accessed 16 March 2022
  3. Pneumococcal disease: Causes, how it spreads, and symptoms | https://tinyurl.com/y3fjh3yd | Accessed 16 March 2022
  4. Types of Pneumococcal Disease | https://tinyurl.com/2p9bbtsj | Accessed 16 March 2022
  5. Ear Infection (Otitis Media) Symptoms & Treatment | https://tinyurl.com/3ax8pa35 | Accessed 16 March 2022
  6. Symptoms and Complications of Pneumococcal Disease | https://tinyurl.com/3xceduht | Accessed 16 March 2022
  7. Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) | https://tinyurl.com/3cfdshf4 | Accessed 16 March 2022
  8. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17701-sinusitis | https://tinyurl.com/hftxa685 | Accessed 16 March 2022
  9. Meningitis | https://tinyurl.com/3nfn7ryf | Accessed 16 March 2022
  10. Bacterial Meningitis | https://tinyurl.com/2p9b48nk | Accessed 16 March 2022
  11. Bacteremia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments | https://tinyurl.com/y8skx4xk | Accessed 16 March 2022
  12. What Is Sepsis | https://tinyurl.com/3khzherp | Accessed 16 March 2022
  13. Pneumonia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications | https://tinyurl.com/4z6azxcc | Accessed 16 March 2022
  14. What Causes Pneumonia? | https://tinyurl.com/2p9ye4vb | Accessed 16 March 2022
  15. Pneumococcal Vaccination | https://tinyurl.com/2z4u7f2k | Accessed 16 March 2022


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