Pneumococcal meningitis

Pneumococcal meningitis is a rare but very serious illness that can develop into a life-threatening medical emergency. The infection may have long-term consequences and can even be fatal. Prompt treatment is necessary to minimize the risk of adverse outcomes.

Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) is a widespread bacterium responsible for many illnesses, including meningitis, pneumonia and sinus infections. The bacteria are spread easily and quickly from person to person through coughing and sneezing.

S. pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in adults and in children under 2 years old.

There are over 90 different strains but only a small amount cause the disease. It usually sits harmlessly in the back of the throat by both adults and children.

It is usually released in the air through sneezing, coughing, intimate kissing. Most of the bacteria are transferred to the meninges through the bloodstream and infects the cerebrospinal fluid (CFS).

The incidence of severe pneumococcal infection, including meningitis, has decreased significantly since the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine on to the Australian National Immunisation Plan in 2005 which is given to babies, at risk groups and seniors.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can make a person more susceptible to developing pneumococcal meningitis, including:

  • decreased immune response from infection or drug use
  • diabetes
  • trauma or injury to the head
  • recent ear infection with  pneumoniae
  • history of meningitis
  • alcohol consumption
  • cigarette smoking
  • removed or non-functioning spleen
  • chronic liver, lung, renal, or heart disease.
  • infection of a heart valve with  pneumoniae
  • having a cochlear implant
  • recent case of pneumonia with  pneumoniae
  • recent upper respiratory infection 

After Effects

  • Pneumococcal meningitis can leave people with serious after effects including:
  • Loss of hearing
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain injury
  • Severe mental retardation
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to talk
  • Inability to walk

More information

If you would like more information on this you can download our brochures and pamphlets, find out more about vaccines, call us Monday-Friday on 1800 250 223 or email us at info@meningitis.org.au.