Pneumonia leading killer of children under 5: Experts


 KARACHI: Pneumonia accounts for 15% of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than 5 years of age Globally.

In Pakistan, it accounts for 92,000 annual deaths of children under 5.

This was revealed by the health experts during a press briefing to mark upcoming World Pneumonia Day on November 12.

Director NICH and President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Sindh, Dr Jamal Raza informed that pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs.

When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli (small sacs in lungs which fill with air when a healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.

Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as lower chest wall indrawing).

Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem, Dr Jamal added.

Speaking about the disease, General Secretary PPA Sindh, Dr Khalid Shafi said that Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi.

The most common causes of pneumonia amongst children include: Streptococcus pneumonia and Hemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death toll.

Fortunately Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI program in October, 2012, and this achievement made Pakistan to become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunization program, he added.

He regretted that vaccination coverage is not optimistic as only 54% children in the country and 35% in Sindh are vaccinated.

Dr M N Lal, Project Director Child Survival Programme, while giving a reference of study, said that most of the children in Sindh came with Pneumonia were malnourished.

“Proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are important to fight pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring,” he said.

The parents need to be educated about getting their children vaccinated as Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases, he added.

Every year due to vaccines, approximately 3,000,000 deaths are prevented and 750,000 children are saved from disability, Dr Lal concluded.—APP

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