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Pneumonia, a preventable killer

Pneumonia, a preventable killer

It is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide, and in Pakistan it accounts for the deaths of one in four children.

For a country with a child mortality rate among the highest in the world, pneumonia continues to one of the biggest threats to our future even though it is for the most part preventable.

An inflammatory condition of the lung which primarily affects the small air sacs known as alveoli, pneumonia is usually the result of infection by viruses, bacteria or in rare cases, other microorganisms. Its symptoms usually includes some combination of dry cough, chest pain, difficulty in breathing and fever, and each year it affects about 450 million people around the world, resulting in around four million deaths.

The disease is particularly dangerous for children under the age of five. Each year, around 10 million children contract it and 1.4 million perish because of it. Globally, it accounts for 18 per cent of all deaths of children under five years old worldwide. In Pakistan, it wreaks disproportional havoc on children under the age of five. Although only 96,000 Pakistani adults succumb to pneumonia every year, more than 500,000 children younger than five die because of it. Speaking to The Express Tribune, head of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) Professor Jamal Raza stressed the importance of vaccinating children against pneumonia and other diseases.

“The vaccine for this potentially deadly disease is already included in the governmentapproved vaccination programme for children,” he said. “The first dose of this vaccine is administered six weeks after the birth, while the second is given at the 10 week mark. The third dose is given after 14 weeks,” he pointed out. According to Prof Raza, pneumonia unfortunately is very common in Pakistan. “There is evidence which hints that pneumonia and measles rise rapidly in winter season. Every year in developing countries, over 150 million cases of pneumonia in children under the age of five are reported, constituting over 95% of all cases worldwide,” he said.

“Diseases such as measles and whooping cough can lead to complications and cause pneumonia as well,” he added “Children with HIV are more likely to develop pneumococcal disease than children without it. They are 40 times more likely to be unaffected by the antibiotics given to them as their body develops resistance to medical drugs,” he warned.

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