Pneumonia is an infection affecting one or both lungs. A host of germs ranging from bacteria, virus and fungi can cause this infection. The infection inflames the lungs' air sacs known as alveoli filling it with fluid or pus. This leads to symptoms like cough and phlegm, fever, chills, vomiting and breathing difficulty.
Children and people who are immune-compromised are more prone to acquiring this infection. People with diabetes, asthma, heart disease, HIV, cystic fibrosis and other genetic respiratory conditions are at a greater risk.
Antibiotics are used to treat pneumonia. Usually a culture test is done to determine the best antibiotic before starting the regimen. In severe cases, hospitalization with IV fluids and antibiotics maybe necessary.
World Pneumonia Day 2015November 12th is marked as World Pneumonia Day each year. This day is marked to raise awareness of the disease, encourage prevention and early treatment and gather support to fight this killer infection. Established in 2009, this is the seventh year of World Pneumonia day. The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia came together in 2009 to establish this day and take the lead in combating this infectious disease. The Coalition comprises 140 non-governmental organizations, civic bodies, academic institutions, government agencies and other organizations working against pneumonia.
Pneumonia is the number one killer of children below five. 99% of pneumonia deaths occur in low and middle income countries. There are simple solutions to prevent pneumonia like vaccination, clean drinking water, good nutrition, adequate sanitation and ventilation and good hygiene.
50% of the world's pneumonia deaths occur in India. There were 174,000 deaths due to pneumonia in 2014. The Government of India is taking several preventive measures to combat this infection. The Universal Immunization Program (UIP) now includes the pneumonia vaccine. India also has an Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) control program as a part of public health and preventable disease measures. Public health programs, awareness and hygiene can reduce pneumonia-related deaths. A day to mark awareness of this disease plays a significant role in public awareness and information dissemination.
World Pneumonia Day is one of the international days observed by the United Nations (UN). One of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to reduce the under-five mortality rate by at least two-third by the year 2015. In order to achieve this, deaths by pneumonia need to be reduced as it can save nearly one million children's lives each year. There is little information on the dangers of pneumonia among the public. Ignorance, carelessness and late diagnosis can be fatal especially for children, elderly and those with immune issues. Pneumonia can often lead to total respiratory failure and death if treatment is delayed which is why early intervention is critical to saving lives.
Improving public information on pneumonia, better training for health workers and primary care personnel, increasing awareness on the availability of the vaccine and preventive measures are some of the key agenda points on World Pneumonia Day this year.
"Every Breath Counts: Stop Pneumonia Now"The theme for 2015 conveys the urgency to stop pneumonia from claiming lives globally. Since pneumonia affects the lungs and leads to breathing difficulties, the theme "every breath counts" is significant in implying the immediate need to tackle the menace of pneumonia. The need is especially urgent in low and middle income countries where large sections of the population do not have access to proper nutrition, well-ventilated housing, clean water and adequate sanitation facilities. Dampness and unhygienic surroundings are a good breeding ground for pneumonia germs. Improving people's living conditions can go a long way in preventing pneumonia. Improving income equality should be a priority of countries where pneumonia is prevalent considering the correlation between low income, inadequate housing and sanitation.
With the establishment of the ARI control program, India has taken some steps in controlling pneumonia. India also needs massive health campaigns to spread awareness about pneumonia and its dangers. Improving public awareness means more and more people will follow preventive measures including vaccination.
Pneumonia is a preventable disease and this year's theme focus on this aspect to stem the problem in the bud.