Pneumococcal infections can range from mild to severe. There are an estimated five million pneumococcal ear infections each year in the United States, plus over ten thousand bloodstream infections and several hundred cases of meningitis. Over two hundred children a year die from complications of these infections, and many other children are left with lifelong consequences, such as brain damage and hearing loss. Thus, these can be very serious infections.
The majority of the milder infections are easily treated with oral antibiotics at home. The more serious infections require intravenous (IV) antibiotics in the hospital and occasionally require spinal taps. Unfortunately, some of the bacteria have become resistant to common antibiotics such as penicillin, which makes them harder to treat.