Invasive Pneumococcal Disease

What is Pneumococcal Disease?

Pneumococcal Disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. It can cause infections of the ears, sinuses or lungs. It can also cause more serious infections of the blood or brain.

Bacteria like the pneumococcal bacteria can become resistant to the drugs we normally use to treat infections. When this happens, it is harder to treat the infection. For this reason, prevention is very important.

What is my risk?

Pneumococcus is most common in the very young (those under age 5 – especially those under age 2) and the elderly (those over age 65). Your risk for getting pneumococcus can also be impacted by factors that are part of your environment or lifestyle.

Speak with one of our health specialists to understand your risk of contracting pneumococcal disease.

How is it transmitted?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Certain strains cause disease more often than others. These bacteria can spread very easily through infected mucus or saliva.

You may come in contact with infected mucus or saliva through close contact with an infected person, coughs and sneezes from an infected person, or touching objects that were recently exposed to an infected person's mucus or saliva.

Pneumococcal infections may occur following a viral infection like influenza.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms and complications depend on the part of the body that is infected.

Pneumococcal pneumonia (lung infection) is the most common serious form of pneumococcal disease. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion or low alertness

Can Pneumococcal disease be treated?

People with pneumococcal infections need to take antibiotics to get better.

The bacteria that cause invasive pneumococcal disease usually disappear from the nose and mouth 24 hours after antibiotic treatment has begun.

But in some cases, even with antibiotics, the bacteria can cause permanent damage. As antimicrobial resistance develops, cases of invasive pneumococcal disease are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics.


Get vaccinated There are different pneumococcal vaccines available and recommended in Canada depending on age and risk factors. Speak to our health specialists to understand if a pneumoccoccal vaccine is right for you.

It is also important to consider the seasonal influenza vaccine every year, especially if you are in a high risk group. Your risk of pneumococcal infection increases if you get the flu.