With over 43 million people suffering from pneumonia in the country, it is extremely important that awareness about disease prevention and detection is raised especially during the winter season. The reason for this is the similarity in the symptoms of pneumonia with those of flu, a chest infection or a persistent cough.
Recent reports of the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that Streptococcus pneumonia is the prime cause of the hospitalization and death of many children below five years of age. As per WHO statistics, around 1, 20,000 deaths of children under five are caused due to pneumonia and a child dies every minute from pneumonia in India.
Creating awareness, Padma Shri Awardee Dr. A Marthanda Pillai –National President IMA and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General, IMA and President, HCFI said, “Infants, neonates, premature babies aged 24-59 months with underdeveloped lungs, narrow airways, poor nutrition and immature immune system are at risk of contracting pneumonia. It is extremely important that awareness is raised amongst the masses of how unhygienic and unclean environments, malnutrition and lack of breastfeeding can increase the rate of mortality of children suffering from pneumonia. Several child deaths are preventable, and it is the duty of all doctors to educate new mothers about ways to keep their child healthy and the importance of timely vaccination”.
Pneumonia can be spread in a number of ways. The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat can infect the lungs if they are inhaled. They may also spread via airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze. In addition, pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth.
Pneumonia can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition and by addressing environmental factors. Pneumonia caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but only one-third of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need at present. It is important that during winter months, children are kept warm, exposed to adequate sunlight and are kept in well-ventilated rooms. It should also be ensured that they receive adequate nutrition and necessary vaccinations.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) are the two vaccines, which prevent pneumonia. However over 70% of children are not given these vaccinations due to the high-cost factor as well as a lack of awareness. It is important that a government led vaccination program for the pentavalent vaccine is implemented at a National level to help reduce the disease incidence.