For information about the new Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) please click here.
What is pneumococcal meningitis?
Pneumococcal meningitis is a life-threatening infectious disease that causes inflammation of the layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These layers are called the meninges – they help to protect the brain from injury and infection. Although uncommon, it can strike unexpectedly and the consequences are often severe. Approximately 20% of cases of pneumococcal disease will result in death.
Pneumococcal meningitis is called by a bacterium called the pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae). There are over 90 strains (or serotypes), but of these only a small number have been shown to cause disease. The pneumococcus can also cause other serious infections such as septic arthritis and blood poisoning, and less serious infections such as otitis media, glue ear, sinusitis and chest infections. Together these are known as pneumococcal disease or pneumococcal infection.
Who gets pneumococcal meningitis and why?
Pneumococcal meningitis can affect any age group, but those at most risk are babies and young children under 18 months of age. The elderly and people with conditions that affect their immune systems are also at increased risk. Meningitis may occur following head injury and damage to the meninges, on rare occasions this may be recurrent.
The pneumococcal bacteria can be carried harmlessly in the back of the nose and throat by both adults and children. Virtually all children will become carriers at one time or another. Carriage of bacteria helps us to build up natural immunity to infection. Bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing.
Babies and young children are more at risk because their body’s defences are not fully developed. If the pneumococcus invades the body their immune system cannot provide resistance to fight off infection.
For signs and symptoms information please click here.
How is pneumococcal meningitis treated?
Pneumococcal meningitis requires rapid admission to hospital and urgent treatment with antibiotics. If treated promptly, pneumococcal meningitis is less likely to become life-threatening. In hospital other treatment, procedures and investigations will be carried out depending on the patient’s condition.
If someone becomes seriously ill, they will require specialist care and treatment in an intensive care unit. Here doctors and nurses can monitor their condition closely, respond to emergencies and provide immediate support when it is needed. Appropriate hospital care and treatment are essential if the patient is to make a good recovery.
Can pneumococcal meningitis be prevented?
Yes, most pneumococcal meningitis can be prevented with vaccines. Vaccines are the only way to prevent infectious disease such as pneumococcal meningitis.
For information about pneumoccocal vaccines please click here.
What happens after pneumococcal meningitis?
Most people who get pneumococcal meningitis will make a good recovery, but around 25% will be left with severe and often permanent after-effects. However, the exact number of people who experience after-effects is not known. After-effects are often complicated and can require ongoing support for life.
Many people will experience a wide range of less debilitating but serious after-effects. What ever the after-effect, mild or severe, meningitis can change a person’s life forever.
For more information about after-effects please click here.
Tragically, some patients will die despite receiving the best possible treatment and care. The death of a loved one following meningitis or septicaemia is always painful and traumatic. If you have lost a loved one, our trained staff are available 24 hours a day, ad can explain how we may be able to offer you support.
Please call 0800 028 18 28.
To download a copy of ‘Pneumococcal meningitis – The Facts’ please click here (PDF 376KB)