EDITORIAL: Threat of pneumonia

Taking preventive measures is the best way to keep children below 15 years of age free from influenza and pneumonia 

Doctors have advised parents to take care of their children, especially those below 15 years of age, during the winter season as it provides the most favourable condition for the speedy growth of virus/ bacteria that may lead to viral influenza and pneumonia. With the mercury dropping every day, chances of catching viral influenza and pneumonia are very high because of a higher level of moisture in the air during the winter. The cold wave in the Tarai and chilly environment in the hilly and mountainous regions in the morning and evening have led to higher cases of viral influenza and pneumonia, especially among the children and elderly people. The cold wave in the southern plains has thrown normal life out of gear, forcing the people to stay put inside their homes and burning firewood to ward off the bone-chilling cold. The yearly phenomenon will continue to remain unchanged for a couple of weeks to come. The Kathmandu Valley is more prone to pneumonia because of air pollution caused by dust and smoke belched out by vehicles and brick kilns. The dust and smoke hang over just above the ground in the morning, making it most risky to venture out at that time. Recurrence of pneumonia among the children between two months and 15 years of age with a history of two or more episodes of pneumonia is very high.

In a study conducted by Dr Prashant Rijal and his team at the Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital on 653 patients of the hospital from July 2013 to June 2018, 74 of them were diagnosed with recurrent pneumonia. It means, on an average, one in nine children with pneumonia has recurrent pneumonia. Air pollution, overcrowding, malnutrition, congenital anomalies, congenital immune deficiency, gastroesophageal reflux, lack of vaccine and babies who are not breastfed are some of the reasons for the recurrence of pneumonia among the children. Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection caused either by virus, bacteria or fungi that affects the lungs. After suffering from pneumonia, air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid, making it difficult to breath.

Doctors have advised all to take preventive measures to keep their children free from the cold-related disease. Breastfeeding, proper vaccination, keeping children away from the cold, pollution and timely treatment are the best preventive measures. As the disease spreads via air-borne droplets from cough and sneezing, children are more prone to contact the infection at school. Early recognition of pneumonia and management of its causes are the best way to reduce the mortality rate related to pneumonia. According to a World Life Expectancy survey, influenza and pneumonia deaths in Nepal reached 10,535, or 6.45 per cent of the total deaths in 2017. Influenza and pneumonia claimed the lives of 47 persons out of every 100,000 people in 2017. According to WHO, pneumonia accounted for 15 per cent of all deaths of children under five years in 2017. Early diagnosis and care are necessary for children suffering from pneumonia. Immediate medical help is needed if a child suffers from fever, cough and common cold, has difficulty in breathing and has developed a sore throat. Prevention is always better than cure.

Bizarre story

In what is a bizarre incident, seven persons have been arrested for abducting a Nepali model and trying to sell her to a religious cult in India for a sacrifice. The model must thank her stars and the Nepal Police that intervened just in time to save her life. Nepali women and girls have been trafficked to India and beyond mostly to be sold into the flesh trade, but the latest incident involving a model for a human sacrifice reads like a plot out of Indian cinema. The police are investigating the case, and should it turn out that the model was being trafficked for a religious sacrifice, then it should make everyone sit up and contemplate the gravity of the issue.

Nepal and India share an open border, and thousands of people from either side cross the largely unregulated border every day. This makes it easy for unscrupulous people to traffic unsuspecting Nepali women and children across the border for different purposes. If religious cults are indeed looking for humans to make sacrifices, then children who disappear without a trace should be a matter of worry to the parents. This calls for stronger vigilance by the community, parents and the police to keep our society safe.