Invasive Pneumococcal Disease

What is Invasive Pneumococcal Disease?

Invasive pneumococcal disease is a sudden and serious illness caused by a bacteria called streptococcus pneumonia. 

The bacteria can cause many different infections including infections of the ears, sinuses or lungs. It can also cause more serious infections including meningitis (infection of the brain), bacteremia (infection in the blood), and pneumonia (infection of the lungs). This type of infection is called “invasive pneumococcal disease” or IPD. It can lead to brain damage, blood stream infections or even death.

The risk for pneumococcal disease is highest among young children, those less than 2 years of age, the elderly, cigarette smokers, and people of any age who have chronic medical conditions.

What are the symptoms?

Many people who have pneumococcal bacteria in their nose and throat will not show any symptoms.

For the more serious infections symptoms may start as short as 1 to 3 days after exposure to the germ.

Meningitis symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea     
  • Vomiting
  • Discomfort with bright lights
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck (which can develop over several hours or 1 to 2 days.)
  • Sleepiness

Bacteremia symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache  
  • Vomiting
  • Fussiness in children    
  • Loss of appetite

 Pneumonia symptoms may include:

  • Sudden start of shaking  chills
  • Fever
  • Cough that brings up phlegm
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or very fast breathing

The above symptoms may not be present in newborns and young infants; symptoms could be irritability, feeding poorly, vomiting, and inactivity for this group.

What to do if you become ill

If you or your children develop the symptoms of IPD, see your health care provider immediately.

How is it spread?

Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Certain strains cause disease more often than others. Pneumococcal bacteria are very common. Many people carry them in their nose and throat without getting sick. 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 (kissing, sharing food and water bottles, straws, or toothbrushes.)
  • coughs and sneezes from an infected person (wiping a child’s nose)
  • touching objects that were recently exposed to an infected person’s mucus or saliva (such as shared utensils, cups, tissues and toys) then rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth

ls there treatment?

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

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

What are the possible complications?

In some cases, even with antibiotics, the bacteria can cause permanent damage.

How do I prevent infection?

The best way to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease is to get vaccinated with a pneumococcal vaccine. Routine pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for all children , adults 65 years and older and those high risk. Your health care provider is the best person to talk to about your vaccinations. Please refer to Ontario’s Publicly Funded Immunization Schedules

Health Care Providers

Cases are reportable to the Health Unit immediately. Call 519-258-2146 to speak with our infectious disease prevention department from Monday to Friday 08:30 to 4:30 p.m. and after hours to 519-973-4510.

Ontario’s Public Health Infectious Disease Protocol / Management of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease  

Provincial Case Definition

Public Health Ontario Laboratory Services (consult on specimen collection and submission) Toll free: 1-877-604-4567   Email: Website: