Pneumococcal Disease, Now A Preventable Disease

Do you know that there are 1.6 million children and adults die each year as a result of pneumococcal disease (PD) among all age groups according to World Health Organization (WHO) . Of these, between 0.70 million to 1 million deaths occur in children under five years old.

A symposium on Pneumococcal Vaccination was recently held in Korea, marking a significant milestone in Asia Pacific in the fight against childhood pneumonia. The summit intends to develop solutions in a collective effort to drastically reduce the incidence of PD in the region.

It was hosted by International Vaccine Institute (IVI). The symposium is a step to raise awareness among governments and the general public about the magnitude of this dreadful disease.

The group of illnesses caused by the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae also known as pneumococcus disease (PD) includes: a) Bactirimia – bacterial infection of the blood, b) Sepsia – blood poisoning, c) Meningitis – bacterial infection of the membrane of the spinal column or brain and d) Bacterimic pneumonia.

All these invasive pneumococcal diseases (IPDs) are caused by the colonization of pneumococcus in the upper respiratory tract. When bacteria spreads to the nasopharynx to the upper and lower respiratory tract, it results to non-invasive PDs includes:

a) Bacterial pneumonia – inflammation of the lungs, b) Acute otitis media – inflammation of the middle ear and c) Sinusitis – infection of the sinuses. If left untreated, it can lead to hearing loss, learning disabilities, speech delays, paralysis and sometimes, death.

Pneumococcus is commonly found in the nose and throat of healthy children and adults. While not all individuals will get sick from pneumococcus; anyone who has been previously infected is a carrier and can potentially infect others through airborne particles, such as those in sneezes, coughs or close contact.

While PD is understood to be a major cause of death and illness worldwide, the specific disease burden in the Asia Pacific region is largely unknown. This is disquieting matter considering PD is the number one vaccine preventable disease.

A pneumococcal conjugate vaccine that protects against seven of the most common serotypes is currently available.

Over fifteen countries in North America, Latin America, Oceania, Europe and the Middle East, have already introduced the vaccine and are showing a drastic reduction in the incidence of PDs.

The introduction of a 7 valent conjugate vaccine significantly altered the epidemiology of pneumococcal disease (PD).

In communities where it is widely used, invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) due to vaccine serotypes in children below five years old, has fallen by less than 90% with a total of 75% decrease including among the elderly due to herd immunity.

Herd immunity is described as the type of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a portion of the population provides protection to non vaccinated individuals.

Furthermore, it has also been noted that the more immune individuals present in a population, the lower the likelihood that a susceptible person will come into contact with an infected individual.

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