World Pneumonia Day: A curable disease that has become a burden on the Indian Populace

Pneumonia is responsible for the death of a million people worldwide and needs immediate attention.


Pneumonia is one of the major causes of death among children under the age of five and takes the lives of more than 200 children in a day. Globally, more than 1,400 cases of pneumonia per 100,000 children are reported every year. The greatest incidences occur in South Asia and specifically India which has the highest number of deaths of children under the age of five. Currently, India has an under mortality rate of 48 per 1000 live births.

Pneumonia is a very serious infection that requires immediate medical attention when diagnosed. Patients suffering from this sickness usually have a fever and cough. They may find it very difficult to breathe and experience pain in their chest especially while breathing in.

 World Pneumonia Day: A curable disease that has become a burden on the Indian Populace

A microscopic look at the aspiration pneumonia virus. Image credit: Flickr/Yale Rosen

Types of Pneumonia

Two of the most common types of pneumonia are bacterial and viral. Different types of viruses from conditions as mild as common cold or flu may lead to its onset which is contagious and may spread to co-workers, friends, spouses and fellow commuters. The good news is that most cases of viral pneumonia are mild and the symptoms fade away in a few weeks, except in patients who are very old or those who have a compromised immune system. However, viral pneumonia makes the patient susceptible to contracting bacterial pneumonia which can be fatal. Pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection is one of the most common type of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in India.

Warning Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia, as described above, are fever and cough with sputum, usually with chest pain and/or breathlessness These can be mild in a typical pneumonia and very severe in bacterial, especially lobar pneumonia. Visible warning signs of pneumonia, especially in children, are flaring of nostrils, indrawing of ribs with each breath.

Another warning sign is increased Respiratory Rate (RR), which is interpreted

RR ≥ 50 breaths/minute in children from 1 to 11 months, ≥ 40 breaths/minute in children from 1 to 5 years and > 20 in adults

A x-ray of the chest of someone suffering with pneumonia. Image credit: Flickr/Yale Rosen

A x-ray of the chest of someone suffering with pneumonia. Image credit: Flickr/Yale Rosen

Severe pneumonia and its complications such as respiratory, circulatory and renal failure, due to septicaemia require hospital sometimes ICU care.

Vaccination 

At present three different types of vaccinations are being administered in India to prevent the onset of this infection. The vaccines not only help to prevent children from developing infections but also prevent the onset of conditions that may ultimately lead to pneumonia such as measles.

With the introduction of vaccines and effective antibiotics, it has become a little easier to combat the deadly infection. The three types of vaccines that are being administered to bring down the mortality rate related to pneumonia are PCV (Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine), Hib Vaccine and Measles vaccine. The PCV vaccine was recently introduced in the UIP of India in a phase-wise manner in the year 2016.

There are three types of Polio vaccines that are administered in India.

There are three types of Polio vaccines that are administered in India.

Vaccinations have a simple mechanism, they were devised by using a component of the disease-causing organism or an attenuated form or a toxin produced by them. The vaccines are able to trigger an immune response in the body which is not fatal. When a vaccinated person encounters the pathogen, they have an entire army of memory T cells in their body which will help produce antibodies to help the body kill the pathogen.

Future Outlook for Pneumonia

Pneumonia is responsible for the death of a million people worldwide and therefore requires immediate attention. In India, with the introduction of PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) the future of combating this disease seems promising. Moreover, India has launched various programs such as Mission Indradhaush to scale up the reach of vaccines to even the remotest areas of the country.

However crowded living conditions and delay in reaching out for medical care are some of the main reasons for death caused by this disease. Improving living conditions, vaccinations and good healthcare, especially for poor, children and the elderly are very important to stop the spread of pneumonia.

Dr Binita Priyambada is a Senior Consultant-Medical Team at Docprime.com


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