Face-to-Face with Pneumococcal Pneumonia

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Friday, August 15, 2014


PNEUMONIA is defined as the infection of the lungs that involves the small air sacs (alveoli) and the tissues around them.

Typically, pneumonia is a combination of different illnesses caused by various microorganisms that gain access to the lungs either through inhalation or carried by blood from other infected parts of the body.
In some instances, infection happens due to migration from an adjacent or nearby infected body parts.

Health experts claim that among the many possible microbes that cause pneumonia is “Streptococcus pneumoniae”, which is the most common among all bacterial pneumonias.

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Most literatures share that Streptococcal pneumonia is more commonly addressed as “Pneumococcal pneumonia.”

Certain groups of people are more susceptible in catching the “Strep” and develop pneumococcal pneumonia. Among these are the alcoholics, cigarette smokers and to those with diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Pneumoccocal pneumonia is also common among the very young and the very old and to those whose immune system has been compromised by drugs (chemotherapy), bedridden and diseases (HIV, AIDS).

To these populations of people, a pneumococcal vaccination may be a wise preventive choice. However, although it promises lifetime protection, researches have shown that a good number of individuals must be revaccinated after 5 to 10 years of receiving their first shot.

Fortunately, a series of random studies have found that only less than 1 percent of those ever vaccinated developed fever and muscle pain as the side effects. Also, very few have been found to develop allergic reactions toward the vaccine.

In terms of onset, this form of pneumonia typically starts as an upper respiratory tract viral infection such as colds, flu or sore throat that damages the lungs just enough to allow the pneumococci to infect the area.

Shaking and chills then manifest as its signs and symptoms and are then followed by a fever, a sputum-producing cough, shortness of breath and chest pain on the side of the lung that is affected when breathing.

Likewise, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and fatigue are common. The sputum that is usually produced in pneumococcal pneumonia is rust-colored due to the blood.

Accordingly, chest x-ray, sputum and blood examinations can help the doctor identify the causative bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae).

However, most pulmonologists inform that there have been cases wherein the exact microorganisms that cause pneumonia cannot be identified.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is treated with several antibiotics including penicillin. Those who have allergy for penicillin are usually prescribed with erythromycin instead.

Meanwhile, acute respiratory infection (ARI) is an umbrella medical term that can also be used to address pneumonia.

ARI can be bacterial or viral. But regardless of the cause, it may affect the nose, middle ear, throat, voice box, air passage and lungs.

For medical sociologists, ARIs, which includes pneumonia have important sociological implications: the higher the prevalence of pneumonia, the more likely the population is poverty-laden. In short, pneumonia is a form of poverty index.

As a matter of fact, the country’s Department of Health (DOH) statistics states that pneumonia is among the top 10 leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines.

The 2008 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) maintains that 5 percent (1, 221) of all surveyed children under the age of 5 years has had pneumonia-related symptoms at least 2 weeks prior survey.

Among other significant findings, children whose mothers smoke and those whose household use firewood or straw as fuel for cooking are more likely to have pneumonia-like symptoms.

Unfortunately, of the 5 percent under 5 years children who had pneumonia-related symptoms, only 50 percent received medical care.

Sources: Community Health Nursing and Community Health Development; The Merck Manual of Children’s Health; The Merck Manual of Medical Information; 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey.

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 15, 2014.

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