Pneumococcal Disease

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). People with pneumococcal disease can spread the bacteria to others when they cough or sneeze.

Pneumococcus bacteria can cause infections in many parts of the body, including

  • Lungs (pneumonia) 
  • Ears (otitis)
  • Sinuses (sinusitis)
  • The lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • Blood (bacteremia)

Symptoms of pneumococcal infection depend on the part of the body affected. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, confusion, increased sensitivity to light, joint pain, chills, ear pain, sleeplessness, and irritability. In severe cases, pneumococcal disease can cause hearing loss, brain damage, or death. You can find a full list of symptoms for each part of the body that is affected on the symptoms and complications of pneumococcal disease page.

Who is at risk?

Information by Destination
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Where are you going?

Pneumococcal disease occurs around the world but is more common in low- and middle-income countries where fewer people get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. In places with four seasons, pneumococcal disease is more common during winter and early spring. In tropical climates with dry and rainy seasons, pneumococcal disease tends to occur more in the dry season.

What can travelers do to prevent pneumococcal disease?

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccines are routinely recommended in the United States. 

CDC recommends PCV13 or PCV15 for

  • All children younger than 5 years old
  • Children 2 through 18 years old with certain medical conditions

For those who have never received any pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, CDC recommends PCV15 or PCV20 for

  • Adults 65 years or older
  • Adults 19 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions or other risk factors

CDC reocmmends PPSV23 for

  • Children 2 through 18 years old with certain medical conditions
  • Adults 19 years or older who receive PCV15

Some groups may need multiple doses or booster shots. Talk with your or your child’s clinician about what is best for your specific situation.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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