HomeHealth'Pneumonia is a bacteria, viral infection, not caused by cold'

‘Pneumonia is a bacteria, viral infection, not caused by cold’

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Lara Adejoro

A professor of public health, Tanimola Akande says pneumonia is a lung inflammation caused by a bacterial or viral infection, and not cold as widely believed.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Akande said malnutrition, air pollution, and outdoor air pollution are among the drivers of preventable deaths from pneumonia among children.

Akande said “pneumonia is lung inflammation caused by a bacterial or viral infection, in which the air sacs are filled with fluid or with pus and may become solid. 

“Pneumonia is not caused by cold weather as widely believed. There are many possible ways to get pneumonia and these include breathing infected air particles into your lungs; breathing certain bacteria from one’s nose and throat into your lungs; during or after a viral upper respiratory infection and breathing large amounts of food, gastric juices, or vomit into the lungs -this is referred to as aspiration pneumonia.

“It is not uncommon for the nose or throat of a healthy person to contain pneumonia-causing bacteria or viruses. The viruses or bacteria can spread to the lungs and lead to pneumonia,” he said.

Akande, who is also a former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria said the inflammation may affect both lungs or one of the lungs.

He noted that the common symptoms of pneumonia include; cough, high fever, difficulty in breathing, and chest pain.

 According to him, the people most at risk of this lung inflammation are infants, young children, and adults aged 65 years and above. 

“People who have some other health problems are also at risk. Smokers are also at risk of pneumonia,” he added.

Akande said pneumonia is a common reason for hospital admission in Nigeria.

“Pneumonia claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year worldwide. 

“In Nigeria, an estimated 19 percent of child deaths were due to pneumonia in 2018, and it was the biggest killer of children under-five in 2017.

“The risk factors for child pneumonia deaths in Nigeria include malnutrition, indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels, and outdoor air pollution. 

“Children with weakened immune systems by other infections like HIV or by malnutrition, and those living in areas with high levels of air pollution and unsafe water, are at far greater risk.”

The physician said the infection is diagnosed mainly by the detection of clinical signs by doctors and some investigations particularly the use of Chest X-ray is also used for diagnosing pneumonia.

“The disease can be prevented with vaccines (pneumococcal conjugate vaccines). Living in an environment devoid of air pollution will also reduce the incidence of pneumonia. The practice of force-feeding children by mothers should be discouraged.

“Pneumonia can be treated easily with antibiotics if properly diagnosed and present to health facilities early. Severe cases will require oxygen,” Akande said. 

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