The World Health Organization (WHO) states that pneumococcal disease is the world’s number 1 vaccine-preventable cause of death among infants and children younger than 5 years of age.
Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness among Australian children under two years of age and persons over 65 years of age. The rates are higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, especially in central Australia.
Immunisation can reduce the risk of infection, especially in young children, where it is on the routine vaccine schedule.
Pneumococcal disease is also an important cause of pneumonia in adults 65 years of age or over. Older people are especially at risk of death from this disease. It is estimated to kill around one million people worldwide every year.
While pneumococcal disease can occur at any time, infections seem to be more common during winter and spring. Young children, older people and people with impaired immune systems and chronic diseases are among the most susceptible.
Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause a range of illnesses, depending on which part of the body is infected. These include: