The Dangers of Pneumoccocal Disease

A quantitative study in 2005 among mothers in Penang and Klang Valley showed that 96 percent of respondents surveyed were not aware of invasive pneumococcal disease (PnD) and 91 percent of mothers were not aware of the existence of the pneumococcus bacteria.

This is alarming especially when this disease can cause potentially deadly infections. PnD is highly contagious and spreads among children in droplets released into the air through sneezing or coughing.

What harm can PnD do?

The pneumoccocus bacterium, the germs responsible for PnD, can cause illnesses such as:

  • Meningitis: infection of the lining of the brain or spinal cord which may lead to hearing loss, paralysis, brain damage and even death. The child may have fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and a stiff neck. Pneumococcus is one of the commonest bacterial causes of meningitis in Malaysia.
  • Pneumonia: infection of the lungs with symptoms such as cough, excessive phlegm, fever and chills. 1/3 of acute respiratory infections (ARI) and 2/3 of ARI deaths are due to pneumococcus.
  • Bacteraemia: infection of the blood that occurs when the pneumoccocus germs enter the blood stream. Symptoms include fever, irritability and rapid breathing. It occurs in 30 out of 100,000 children under 5 each year.
  • Otitis Media: middle ear infection characterised by a painful ear and a swollen eardrum. Half a million ear infections occur each year in Malaysia, out of which 50% are due to pneumococcus.

Preventing PnD

Children at risk of PnD are those below 2 years old, have a weakened immune system and those who attend day care centres. Proper hygiene at home and at day care centres can prevent the spread of PnD. Also, don’t send unwell children to day care centres or schools.

But perhaps the best prevention is to vaccinate against PnD. The pneumococcal vaccine has been shown to be highly effective and safe. Vaccinating your child also provides “herd immunity”, thus protecting those in close contact with your child, further reducing the spread of PnD in the community. Protect your child and other children by vaccinating him with the pneumococcal vaccine. To find out more about PnD, ask your child’s paediatrician or call the “Fight PnD” hotline at 1-800-882-339.


  • WHO estimates that one million children under five die each year from PnD
  • PnD kills one child every minute (WHO).
  • The Malaysian Ministry of Health estimates that pneumoccocal bacteraemia occurs in 30 out of 100,000 children under five, with at least 750 cases and 20 deaths per year.

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