Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause a variety of infections, ranging from ear and sinus infections to bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. The pneumococcus is one of the most common causes of severe pneumonia.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of pneumococcal disease in adults. It occurs in about 175,000 Americans each year. An estimate from 2011 states that pneumococcal disease was responsible for 4 million illnesses, 445,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths each year.
When the bacteria invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs, the illness is usually very severe, requiring hospitalization.