Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protect against Pneumococcal Disease

Children are at risk from Pneumococcal Disease

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, 
All the praise and thanks are due to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta`ala, May Allah's blessings and peace be  upon Prophet Muhammad.

A new vaccine offers protection against six additional strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, writes RIDZWAN A. RAHIM

WHAT kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined? Answer: Pneumococcal Disease, or PD, the term used to describe a group of illnesses caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 735,000 people die of PD annually and that half of these deaths are children under five. Pneumonia, also caused by the same bacterium, causes nearly one in five deaths of children under five worldwide. Other illnesses under the PD description are meningitis, otitis media (infection of the middle ear) and bacteraemia or blood poisoning.

The thing is, the disease can be easily prevented. Consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail says PD is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths worldwide in children younger than five. Infants below two are at the highest risk.

Its symptoms include shaking, chills, high fever, sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain, fatigue and a cough that produces thick, greenish or yellow phlegm.

“It is difficult to make a diagnosis. A child may just come with fever, red throat. You think it’s just a throat infection and give him or her paracetemol. A few days later the child may get high fever, chills and the other symptoms, the most dreaded of which is the blood infection,” says Dr Zulkifli. “There are about 90 serotypes or strains of pneumococcus, so you’re not going to have a vaccine that covers all. The strains are all related but not that related. There isn’t one vaccine for all. “Of the 90 serotypes, not all are very virulent or active. Only 13 or 15 are,” says Dr Zulkifli.

These are strains that Pfizer seeks to address with its Prevenar vaccine. The original Prevenar vaccine, introduced in 2000, offered protection against seven strains of the S. pneumoniae bacterium which account for more than 80 per cent of pneumococcal diseases. The new Prevenar 13 has upped the ante by extending the protection against another six strains of the bacterium. It includes the seven serotypes in Prevenar (4, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F) and six additional serotypes, namely 1, 3, 5, 6A, 7F and 19A. Infants and children who have begun immunisation with Prevenar may switch to Prevenar 13 at any point in their dosing schedule and complete their immunisation series according to official recommendation.

PD affects children and adults alike. Not everyone who is exposed to S. pneumoniae will become ill. However, those who carry the bacterium in their nasal passage may expose others to it via respiratory droplets that are sneezed, coughed or exhaled.

The best way protection is vaccination. At the moment, vaccination against PD is not included in the immunisation schedule for infants in the country. Parents who want their child vaccinated can enquire with private hospitals and clinics.

Read more: Health: Protect against pneumococcal disease

[Via nstp online November 8,2010]

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