One of the leading causes of death among kids below five years in India, pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination, hygiene and proper nutrition. An infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs, pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing 2,500 children a day, according to latest UNICEF data. Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children under five years of age globally as well as in India.
Nearly 20 per cent of global pneumonia deaths in this age group take place in India. In 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for around 16 per cent of all severe pneumonia cases and 30 per cent of pneumonia-related deaths in kids under- five in India, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a report earlier this year while announcing that it will include the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). Under UIP, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has been introduced to cover approximately 21 lakh children in the first year, in select states, with GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) support.
Targetted and effective work as well as the scaling up of life-saving interventions such as the PCV will help India achieve one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that is to reduce under-5 mortality, experts from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement on Friday. Other measures such as adequate nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years with complementary feeding, prevention of indoor air pollution from smoking or the use of dung/wood in stoves as well as maintaining good hygiene such as regular washing of hands to help prevent pneumonia.
Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Two of the most common causes of severe bacterial pneumonia are streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Young children are highly susceptible to the pathogens that cause this disease. Several risk factors increase a child’s likelihood of developing pneumonia including a weakened immune system from malnutrition or other illnesses, such as HIV and measles; environmental factors such as indoor air pollution, a crowded home and exposure to parental smoking. Both these bacteria can cause acute meningitis, an infection of the membranes covering the brain, which can lead to deafness, seizures, motor impairment and mental disabilities.