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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/27/15

Addressing pneumonia: The deadly childhood illness

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Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)

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Video recording of the interview is online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygwxg1bxN4E

Despite being preventable, pneumonia continues to be a top killer of children under five. It also wreaks 'breath-taking' havoc in the lives of adults, particularly the elderly, and people living with HIV. According to the 2015 Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report released recently by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a projected 5.9 million children around the world will die in 2015 before reaching their 5th birthday.

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Pneumonia is responsible for 16% and diarrhea for 9% of these deaths, making them two of the leading killers of children worldwide. Pneumonia alone killed an estimated 922,000 children in 2015 with 99% of these childhood deaths occurring in developing countries.

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In a webinar 'Every breath counts: Stop pneumonia now' organized by CNS (Citizen News Service), Dr Amita Pandey, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at KG Medical University, lamented that incidence of pneumonia in children under five is estimated to be about 156 million new episodes each year worldwide, of which 151 million are in the developing countries. With 2,97,114 children's deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhoea, India tops the list of these countries. According to her mortality due to childhood pneumonia is strongly linked to malnutrition, poverty, and inadequate access to healthcare services [webinar recording is online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygwxg1bxN4E).

Causes

Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It could be caused by bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type-b (Hib), are the two leading causes of bacterial pneumonia in children. It is also caused by respiratory syncytial virus and Pneumocystis jiroveci, particularly in HIV-positive infants. The illness can be caused by bacteria and viruses already present in the body, or it can be transmitted from an infected person through droplets in the air following a cough or sneeze, or through blood, such as during childbirth.

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Symptoms

When a person has pneumonia, the air sacs in the lung, called alveoli, are filled with pus and fluid, which limits oxygen intake and makes breathing painful. Symptoms of viral and bacterial pneumonia are similar. In children under 5 years of age, who have cough and/or difficult breathing, with or without fever, pneumonia results either in fast breathing or retraction, rather than expansion of the chest during inhalation. Wheezing is more common in viral infections. Other symptoms include fever, phlegm producing cough, fever, sweating and shaking chills and fatigue.

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Citizen News Service (CNS) specializes in in-depth and rights-based, health and science journalism. For more information, please contact: www.citizen-news.org or @cns_health or www.facebook.com/cns.page
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