What Is Pneumococcal Meningitis?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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Pneumococcal meningitis is a medical condition that is caused by a type of bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. This form of meningitis may occur as the result of minor ear infections or other types of strep infections related to the head and is more common in children than adults. Some potential symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle spasms. Treatment for this type of infection usually involves the use of prescription antibiotics, and hospitalization is common. There is a childhood vaccine available that may help to prevent pneumococcal meningitis, although this vaccine does not work to prevent other types of meningitis.

As pneumococcal meningitis is most common in infants and young children, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, especially if the child is too young to describe the symptoms being experienced. The first sign is often the sudden development of a high fever. This is often accompanied by extreme fussiness or crying due to neck stiffness or headache. These symptoms should always be reported to a doctor right away, as untreated meningitis can be fatal.


A procedure known as a lumbar puncture is often considered to be the most accurate diagnostic tool available to diagnose the presence of pneumococcal meningitis. In this procedure, a needle is inserted into the spinal column in order to withdraw a small sample of the cerebrospinal fluid for testing. It typically takes about 24 hours to get the results of this test, and treatment usually begins right away if this condition is suspected. The types of antibiotics that are used may sometimes need to be changed if the test results indicate a particular antibiotic sensitivity.

Penicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic treatment for pneumococcal meningitis. Patients who are allergic or sensitive to penicillin may require a different type of antibiotic. Due to the serious risks associated with this condition, antibiotic therapy is usually given in a hospital setting. A small tube known as an IV is inserted into a vein, allowing the medication to directly enter the bloodstream.

There is a vaccine available that is thought to be effective in helping to prevent some strains of pneumococcal meningitis. The effectiveness as well as concerns over the potential health risks of the vaccine are a bit controversial. Any questions or concerns about the use of this vaccine should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.



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