Hello. I'm Brian Duerden.

I'm the chief microbiologist
at the Department of Health.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by
a bacterium, streptococcus pneumoniae.

That indicates one of the main
things it does: causes pneumonia.

But it also causes
other invasive infections.

It can affect old people and cause
pneumonia and other chest infections.

It can affect young children.

It can get into the bloodstream
and cause septicaemia.

It's also a most important cause
of meningitis in very young children.

In some people it can
get into the sinuses,

into the mastoid and the middle ear

and cause otitis,
a middle-ear infection,

sinusitis and mastoiditis.

This is a very common organism.

Most of us carry it at some stage
in our throats, but quite harmlessly.

It's when it becomes virulent
and gets into the lungs,

it causes pneumonia
or it invades into the bloodstream

and goes on to cause meningitis
and septicaemia

If you get pneumococcal disease
in the elderly,

it's usually a chest infection that can
go on from something like a cold or flu

and they get short of breath, coughing.

They bring up green sputum,
sometimes with blood in it.

And that's the typical picture
of pneumonia.

In the very young
it's more non-specific.

They're unwell with high temperature, as
the organism gets into the bloodstream.

It's a febrile infection.

And they also can have the signs
of meningitis:

a stiff neck, vomiting,

generally unwell and unresponsive.

And that needs prompt attention.

The treatment in pneumococcal disease
is with antibiotics.

It responds very well
to the penicillin types of antibiotics.

Some strains are now resistant
to standard penicillin,

but that's only a minority still.

Pneumococcal disease is not something
you can actively prevent

in terms of the specific infections
following an influenza illness.

The important preventive measures
are to look after yourself

when you have a cold and flu,
particularly in the elderly,

but also to have the vaccination
provided against this infection.

Immunisation against pneumococcal
disease is very important.

It's now part of the infant
immunisation scheme

to prevent septicaemia and meningitis,
that they can get.

It's also given as an immunisation
for elderly people

to help protect them against
invasive pneumococcal disease.