Pneumonia leading cause of mortality in infants
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Pneumonia leading cause of mortality among infants: Expert

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Pneumonia continues to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children below five years and immunisation with Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) is an effective way to bring down the significantly high number of this life-threatening disease in India, an expert said.

To raise awareness about the disease, November 12 is observed as the ‘World Pneumonia Day’ by leading health organisations across the world. India is one of the five countries contributing to 44 per cent of the world’s pneumonia cases.

“There has been a 2-5 per cent increase in respiratory diseases including Pneumonia among children below 5 years in Mumbai in the past year. The top risk factors for pneumococcal disease in children are malnutrition, immuno-deficiency and anaemia. Hospitalisation and intensive care due to invasive pneumonia can be an economic burden for families and therefore immunisation with Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) is a safe and cost-effective preventive measure,” said Dr Uday Pai, Past President of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Mumbai.

The government and medical community are taking strong steps towards reducing the pneumonia burden in India. However, the disease continues to be a common cause of morbidity and mortality among children below 5 years in the country.

“Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months with balanced complimentary feeding is important to prevent deficiency. Vaccination is important for prevention against pneumococcal disease by serotypes in children below five years old,” Dr Pai said.

Vaccination is also recommended for premature children as well as infants of mothers who were suffering from pre-eclampsia, hypertension, gestational diabetes, malnutrition and tuberculosis during pregnancy. There is also a need for national pneumococcal disease surveillance for R&D and development of policies that will help alleviate burden of pediatric pneumonia in the country,” he added.

The World Health Organisation recommends inclusion of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in the national immunisation programmes as a priority in countries such as India. Inclusion of PCV in National Immunisation Programme has the potential to save 7–8 million cases and 0.3–0.5 million deaths due to pneumonia world over.

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