BENGALURU: The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-21 made all of us pay greater attention to our respiratory health, immunity, and hygiene practices. Even before Covid-19, lung infections (pneumonia) were the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children — claiming countless lives.
India accounts for 23 per cent of the global pneumonia burden with case fatality rates between 14 and 30 per cent, and the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae is considered a major bacterial cause.
Who is at risk?
Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious disease you shouldn’t ignore. It can disrupt your life for weeks and even land you in the hospital.
The immune system naturally weakens with age, so even if you’re healthy and active, being 65 or older is a key risk factor for pneumococcal pneumonia.
Pneumococcal bacteria spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and close contact. People can carry the bacteria in their nose and throat without being sick and spread the bacteria to others.
Chronic conditions like lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, can make people more vulnerable to potentially serious illnesses like pneumococcal pneumonia. Smoking damages fragile lung tissue, making lungs more vulnerable to infection. When the lung tissue is damaged by smoking, there’s a higher risk of infection by the bacteria that causes pneumococcal pneumonia.
What can you do?
Most healthy people recover from pneumonia in one to three weeks, but it can be life-threatening.
You can reduce your risk of getting pneumonia by following a few simple steps.
Vaccination can help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia. Pneumococcal vaccine is already available and can be given to patients at any age, based on the doctor’s prescription and recommendation. Talk to your doctor about whether you and your children are up to date on your vaccines and to determine if any of these vaccines are appropriate for you as an adult.
Several hygiene practices that have now been enforced in public places or in areas with high footfall also help lower the risk of infectious diseases such as pneumococcal pneumonia.
For example, frequent hand washing, particularly after visiting a public area; wearing of masks, especially if a person has symptoms of a respiratory infection; and the maintaining of social distance as far as possible, can help lower the transmission of bacterial and viral infections.
(The writer is medical director, Pfizer Limited)