SINCE THE YEAR 2009, November 12 has been marked as World Pneumonia Day. A time set aside to:
- Raise awareness about pneumonia which is world’s leading infectious killer of children under the age of 5
- Promote interventions to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia and highlight proven approaches and solutions in need of additional resources and attention
- Generate action, including continued donor investment, to combat pneumonia and other common, yet sometimes deadly, childhood diseases
Pneumonia remains one of the leading causes of deaths in children under five years old despite being easily preventable and treatable as well as among the elderly who by reason of age have become vulnerable.
Researchers have acknowledged that though vaccines and other preventative efforts are decreasing the burden of the disease, but much still needs to be done in the area of improving nutritional status of children and the elderly as well as increase the surveillance level of new emerging infectious diseases which are threatening the immunity levels of people especially in poor and developing countries.
Pneumonia is factually an infectious disease that can affect one or both lungs of an individual. It is known to be caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses which inflames the lung’s air sacs, or alveoli filling them with fluid or pus thereby making it difficult for the individual to breathe.
Speaking with Healthstyleplus on the deadly nature of Pneumonia in Nigerian environment, Senior Research Fellow, Immunology/Vaccinology, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Dr Adesina Adeiga noted that the present climatic condition has made the strains of pneumonia virus and bacteria in the air to be quite active and strong while the low immunity level of children and elderly made them easily susceptible to the infection.
The Researcher warned that the three main factors that have made pneumonia a leading cause of death in children below the age of five and the elderly in Nigeria include but not limited to: “, the incessant rainfall, the floods, the relative high humidity which brings about high infections as the bacteria and viruses in the air are growing and continuously invading and overcoming the body”
He pointed out, “The children and the elderly are mostly affected because, the children do not have strong immunity; the organs are just developing while the organs of the elderly are going down because of age”.
Adding, “In respect with climate change, there is already some influence on our public health. But apart from that, I would say that the way people would want to care for themselves and the ability to do that is going down daily because of economic disempowerment.
“So, when people have issues relating to healthcare such as respiratory problems, you find that so many do not even have money to buy simple drugs. This, coupled with Nutrition problems are compounded. The way people now eat is not one that can improve on their immunity against the environment”.
The researcher equally said, “Albeit we canvass for vaccination of all babies against childhood killer diseases such as •BCG – tuberculosis. •DTaP/DTwP – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) •Hepatitis A vaccine – hepatitis A.•Hepatitis B vaccine – hepatitis B.•Hib vaccine – haemophilus influenzae type B and •MMR – measles, mumps, rubella; the most important vaccination for any child or the elderly is good food or nutrition”.
Adeiga reiterated the vital role of good nutrition in building effective immunity for every individual saying, “Beyond vaccination, people should take care of basic nutritional needs and keep themselves warm. If you are just taking vaccination and you are not out of floods, since the rains are not stopping, then the infection is not defeated yet”.
Continuing, Adeiga observed, “The elderly are more affected because they often sit in a place and hardly gets good food to eat so when they are infected with the pneumonia virus, they are usually hard hit.
“Similarly, a malnourished child from the womb who struggles to survive till birth, due to insufficiency of good food from the mother can also come down with acute respiratory infections.This explains why we now have a lot of children and elderly overcome by high infections this time around”, said Adeiga.
Some signs and symptoms of pneumonia include: ◦fever, ◦chills, ◦cough, ◦shortness of breath, and ◦fatigue.