Pneumonia Persists as a Grave Threat to Children

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The pneumonia outbreak in Punjab continues to spread, claiming 12 more lives in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 220 since January 1st. According to official data, 1,077 new cases have been reported in the province during the same period, with a majority of the patients being children under the age of five.

The latest fatalities include three deaths in Gujranwala, two each in Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur, and one each in Lahore, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, and DG Khan. The data also shows that Lahore has reported the highest number of new cases, with 251 patients admitted to hospitals.

Punjab Caretaker Health Minister Professor Javed Akram confirmed the deaths and new cases, attributing the surge in pneumonia cases to two main factors: extreme weather conditions and low rates of mother feeding. He expressed concern that many women in Pakistan have stopped breastfeeding their children, citing European countries as having a better record in this regard.

Professor Akram also pointed out that the current cold and dry weather, combined with smog and fog, has severely affected the health of children who have low immunity. He referred to a study conducted at the Children’s Hospital, which found that 72% of children diagnosed with pneumonia were infected with viruses. The mortality rate among children is 1.3%, which is significantly higher than the global average.

To combat the outbreak, Professor Akram advised women to nurse their children in well-ventilated rooms, warning against keeping children in rooms with gas heaters, which poses a significant health risk. He also stressed the need for increased vaccination rates in Punjab, stating that low vaccination coverage is another contributing factor to the high number of pneumonia cases.

South Punjab’s public sector hospitals have recorded 152 deaths, including 43 children under five, since January 1st. At least 3,000 patients have been discharged after recovering from pneumonia at health facilities in South Punjab, according to data collected by the health secretariat.

Dr. Shakeel Ghazi, Head of Pediatrics at Dera Ghazi Khan Medical College, attributed the high number of childhood deaths to non-vaccination, malnutrition, and poor immunity due to lack of breastfeeding. Professor Asif Quraishi, Principal of Ghazi Medical College, assured that all necessary health facilities are available at the Allama Iqbal Teaching Hospital to treat pneumonia patients.

The Punjab government has taken measures to contain the outbreak, including establishing a dedicated pneumonia treatment center at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore. The health department has also launched an awareness campaign to educate parents about the importance of vaccination, proper nutrition, and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of pneumonia.

Acknowledgement: Originally reported by Dawn on 01-26-2024

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