Streptococcus suis causes disease in pigs worldwide and is increasingly implicated in zoonotic disease in East and South-East Asia. To understand the genetic basis of disease in S. suis, we study the genomes of 375 isolates with detailed clinical phenotypes from pigs and humans from the United Kingdom and Vietnam. Here, we show that isolates associated with disease contain substantially fewer genes than non-clinical isolates, but are more likely to encode virulence factors. Human disease isolates are limited to a single-virulent population, originating in the 1920, s when pig production was intensified, but no consistent genomic differences between pig and human isolates are observed. There is little geographical clustering of different S. suis subpopulations, and the bacterium undergoes high rates of recombination, implying that an increase in virulence anywhere in the world could have a global impact over a short timescale.