Preventing pneumococcal diseases, particularly pneumonia, in children is an essential component of a strategy to reduce child mortality. Immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia. Adequate nutrition is the key to improving children’s natural defences, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. In addition to being effective in preventing pneumonia, it also helps to reduce the length of the illness, if a child does become ill. Addressing environmental factors such as indoor air pollution (by providing affordable clean indoor stoves, for example) and encouraging good hygiene in crowded homes also reduces the number of children who fall ill with pneumonia.
The Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP, 2009) aims to accelerate pneumonia control with a combination of interventions to protect, prevent and treat pneumonia in children with actions to:
Young children are at particularly high risk of developing severe pneumonia disease and death. More than 80% of deaths are associated with pneumonia occurs in children during the first 2 years of life. Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere, but most prevalent in the developing World in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Children infected with pneumonia require early diagnosis and treatment. Many cases of pneumonia are vaccine preventable.
Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi.
The most common are:
- Streptococcus pneumoniae – the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children
- Hib – the second common cause of bacterial pneumonia.
- Pneumococcal disease is the name given to a group of disease caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumococcal disease can occur in multiple organ systems, causing pneumonia, meningitis, bacteraemia / sepsis, sinusitis, bronchitis and middle ear infection.