Preventing Deaths From Pneumonia | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Preventing Deaths From Pneumonia

Posted: Jul 26, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Available statistics indicates that about 6.7 million cases of childhood pneumonia are recorded annually in Nigeria and of these, 177,000 children under the age of 5 years die. This means that about 20 children die every hour. The implication is that the disease has become one of the biggest killers of Nigerian children in recent times. Therefore government at all levels in the country and indeed Nigerians need to be concerned about this development. As a matter of fact, the high incidence of infection by pneumonia should be checked quickly, in view of the suffering and discomfort it inflicts on its victims.

Pneumonia is a preventable disease, but it kills 1.6 million people annually around the world. The pneumonia causing organisms are quicker to attack children, HIV/AIDS victims and adults above the age of 65 years, because of their low immunity that makes them more vulnerable. The disease is caused either by the pneumococcus bacteria, viruses, or fungi that live in the nose, mouth, sinuses, or the surrounding environment. These organisms can enter one’s lungs to cause several other infections apart from pneumonia. They can also be got from people who are infected with them, whether they show symptoms or not. Pneumonia can also be caused by influenza, staphylococcus infections, human respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, herpes simplex virus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In a nutshell, any situation that would allow the causative germs to reach the lungs and allow them to become inflamed and fill up with fluid, resulting in pneumonia should be avoided because if not properly managed, it can lead to death.

Perhaps the Federal Ministry of Health needs to come up with clear guidelines for public health management of pneumonia and closely related presentations, as has been done in some other countries. This will form the basis on which other Agencies e.g. Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can take their bearing to educate everyone about what pneumonia is, how to prevent and seek medical assistance?

Indeed, prevention should be taught as the first line of action against pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumonia are available both for adults and children. However, to ensure maximum acceptability, awareness should be created by the government for these vaccines that would match the roll back malaria and the anti -polio awareness campaigns. We believe that all hands should be on deck in the fight against pneumonia. Schools, Day care centres, hospitals, barracks and other places where people aggregate in large numbers inside closed environments should be well ventilated to prevent or drastically reduce indoor or outdoor air pollution.

Sneezing or coughing into one’s elbow or sleeve instead of palms, helps prevent hands getting in contact with the causative organisms. People should either reduce or be properly informed when making contact with infected persons to avoid the spread to uninfected individuals. Proper nutrition and breastfeeding a baby, especially for the first six months, help to build the body’s immune system to fight against diseases like pneumonia and so should be encouraged. The culture of washing the hands frequently with soap and water that helped to stay the spread of Ebola should be sustained, as it is equally effective as one of the ways to stem the spread of the disease.

We urge the government to create more awareness for Nigerians to immunize themselves against pneumonia, as most people in the country seem to care less about the disease. Social media campaigners should also join in talking about pneumonia, as a means of spreading information on the prevention of the disease. Above all medical help should be sought before the condition spirals out of control.