KARACHI: Health experts believe that pneumonia is a huge burden on Pakistan’s healthcare system as it is the single largest infectious killer of adults and children. Moreover, the lack of awareness in society and among caregivers is contributing towards the hike in fatalities.
President, Pakistan Chest Society, Dr Nisar Rao, said that pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and is one of the world’s leading causes of death. In 2019 alone, it claimed 2.5 million lives.
He said, “The COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically increasing pneumonia deaths as COVID-19 could add 1.9 million to the death toll this year. This could increase ‘all-cause’ pneumonia deaths by more than 75%. No other infection causes this burden of death,” he reasoned.
Prof Syed Ali Arsalan, Head of Chest Department, Liaquat National Hospital, said, “The first 48 hours after contracting pneumonia are extremely critical, and antibiotics should be provided to the patient within that time because it reduces the risk of fatality,” he added.
However, he added, “Antibiotics should not be taken without doctor’s prescription as misuse of antibiotics is resulting in antibiotic resistance which will make the infections of future resistant to available antibiotics, and therefore deadlier,” he added.
Prof Tanvir us Salam, Professor of Medicine, National Hospital and Medical Centre, said, “While young, healthy adults have less risk of pneumonia than those of advanced age, it is always a threat. Older people have a higher risk of getting pneumonia, and are more likely to die from it if they do,” he added.
He said that pneumonia is the most common cause of sepsis and septic shock, causing 50% of all episodes, while pneumonia can develop in patients already in the hospital for other reasons.
“Pneumonia can be caused by lots of different types of microbes, and no single one is responsible for as many as 10% of pneumonia cases. Vaccines are available for some but not many causes of pneumonia,” he said.
Dr Aftab Akhtar, Head of Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Shifa International Hospital, added that antibiotics could be effective for many of the bacteria that cause pneumonia though antibiotic resistance is growing amongst these bacteria.
“Being on a ventilator contributes to especially high risk for serious pneumonia. Our changing interactions with the microbial world mean constantly developing new pneumonia risks,” he said.
He added that patients with pneumonia might need to be hospitalized or even go to the intensive care unit (ICU). “While successful pneumonia treatment often leads to full recovery, it can have longer-term consequences,” he said.