Fact Sheets : Pneumococcal Infections in Children
What is Pneumococcus?
The other name for this bacteria is Streptococcus pneumoniae. This bacteria is the most common cause of bacterial invasive infection in children younger than 2 years of age.
What infections does Pneumococcus cause?
Pneumococcus causes meningitis, pneumonia, blood stream infections and sinus infections in children. Pneumococcus is also the leading bacterial cause of ear infections or Otitis Media.
Are any children particularly susceptible to pneumoccocal infection?
Children with weakened immune systems such as HIV infection, have no spleen, and sickle cell are particularly sensitive to pneumoccocal infections. When these children get this infection their body cannot fight it off well and as a result they can get very sick. However, it is important to realize that normal children, especially under 2 years of age are also at risk for developing pneumococcal infections.
What is the treatment for Pneumococcal infection?
Antibiotics are needed to treat pneumococcal infections. Depending on the infection, they may need to be given in a hospital setting through an intravenous (for example: meningitis and pneumonia). The problem with Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is that it is becoming increasingly resistant to many of the currently available antibiotics. Consequently, antibiotics fail to treat this infection resulting in the bacteria becoming more difficult to control and treat. Medical experts fear that one day Pneumococcus will develop resistance to all antibiotics making it a real super-bug: a bacterium very difficult to treat and control. Therefore, prevention of this infection is best.
How can pneumococcal infection be prevented?
Up until very recently there was no effective vaccine against pneumococcal infection for young children. However, there now exists a new Pneumococcus vaccine that has been proven effective in young children, in older children as well as for individuals with weakened immune systems. Tested in over 40,000 children, the pneumococcal vaccine has been proven both safe and effective.
When does the vaccine need to be given?
The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended to be given along with all the other routine vaccinations: at 2, 4, 6, 12, 15 months. The number of doses required depends on the age at which the vaccinations begin: Newborn babies should ideally receive their first vaccine at 2 months, for a total of 3 doses, six to eight weeks apart. A booster is given at one year.