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Mangalore: Need to control pneumonia deaths in kids - Experts

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  • Mangalore: Need to control pneumonia deaths in kids - Experts


    Mangalore: Need to control pneumonia deaths in kids - Experts

    Mangalore, July 27, 2009: Indian and International experts in child health have urged to take immediate steps to control and prevent pneumonia morbidity and morality, which they said is the leading cause of death among children under-five years of age in India and other similar developing countries.

    India leads the world in under-five mortality, with 20 lakh children dying every year, said Dr. Jeeson Unni on the occasion of the Mangalore Pneumococcal Disease Conference. Of these, four lakh deaths are due to pneumonia.

    The conference was jointly hosted Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal disease prevention-India chapter (ASAP-India) and Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP). About 80 pediatricians from Mangalore and around are participating in the event.

    Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs. The bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus is the leading cause of pneumonia right from infancy to adulthood. Streptococcus pneumoniae can also cause other serious infections such as bacteremia (blood infection), meningitis (infection of the coverings of brain and spinal cord) , sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) and otitis media (middle ear infection). This group of diseases is collectively called pneumococcal disease, which besides acute illness and sufferings can also lead to long term sequelae like brain damage, paralysis, learning disabilities, speech delays and at times death said Dr. Srinivas G. Kasi.

    Half of all severe cases of pneumonia and pneumonia deaths are caused by pneumococcus and almost 40% of these deaths i.e. nearly 1 lakh under-five deaths are preventable by use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in the National Immunization Program, said Dr. Nitin Shah.

    Dr. Santosh T. Soans, said that there is urgent need to increase awareness about pneumococcal disease both in the minds of doctors and parents.

    Dr. Jeeson Unni, said, Pneumonia is the forgotten killer of children. It kills more children than any other illness  more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined  according to UNICEF data, he said.

    Doctors use antibiotics to treat children with pneumonia, but increasing incidence of drug-resistant pneumococcus is a cause for concern, Dr. Srinivas G. Kasi said at the conference.

    Dr. Nitin shah said, Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has proven 90% efficacy against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in the trials done in the West. Even in countries like South Africa the trials have shown 80% efficacy of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine against IPD.

    The speakers and participants were unanimous about the pivotal role of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in preventing pneumococcal disease in infants and children younger than 24 months. It also helps to protect older children up to 9 years. Successful childhood national immunization program with PCV has shown significant benefits passed on to even unvaccinated people of all ages due to the herd immunity against IPD and pneumonia.

    As a next step, both ASAP-India and IAP have recommended use of PCV on one to one basis as per the IAP immunization schedule. They also agreed to represent to the Ministry of Health to include PCV in the National Immunization Program. At present, PCV-7 is the only vaccine available to prevent pneumococcal diseases. Extended valent vaccines are expected in the near future.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the inclusion of PCV in national immunization programs as a priority, particularly in countries where the mortality rate of children under five years old is more than 50 per 1,000 live births, or where more than 50,000 children die annually. India is an ideal candidate for inclusion of PCV in the national immunization program, as with under-five mortality of 75 and annual death burden of more than 200,000 under the age of five years, it meets with both the above criteria.