Pneumonia: the leading and forgotten child killer
Did you know that… Pneumonia kills more children under five worldwide than AIDS, malaria and measles combined?
Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi. The greatest concentration of children affected live in poverty-stricken, developing regions where access to interventions is a major barrier. Pneumonia is considered one of the most solvable problems in global health and yet it is referred to as the “forgotten killer” reflecting the little attention it has received historically. As a result, global leaders sought to change this by creating a day of recognition. November 12th was designated as World Pneumonia Day.
In 2011 alone, pneumonia claimed the lives of 1.3 million children, responsible for nearly one in five global child deaths.
Risk factors for pneumonia include stunting and underweight, sub-optimal breastfeeding, lack of immunization and indoor air pollution from household use of solid fuels. “Pneumonia can be prevented and cured. Yet, for too long it has been the leading cause of global deaths among children. We know what to do, and we have made great progress – but we must do more. We must scale-up proven solutions and ensure they reach every child in need,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Healthy children have natural defenses that protect their lungs from pneumonia-causing pathogens. However, children that have a weakened immune systems and exposure to environmental factors have a greater susceptibility to pneumonia. Preventing children from developing pneumonia include promoting good nutrition, immunization, reducing indoor air pollution. Research also indicates that hand-washing may have an impact in reducing the incidence of pneumonia. Treating pneumonia should be done early with antibiotics. An important component of saving children from pneumonia is recognizing the symptoms such as difficulty breathing and fast breathing.
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