However, better surveillance of the disease and awareness leading to increase in uptake of vaccines is the key.
Pneumonia is the cause of as many as 21% mortality in the under-five-year age group in India, said doctors, estimating the same to be around 20% for Gujarat. Bringing down the incidence of this disease will ultimately help India achieve the Millennium Development Goal of lowering IMR to 29 deaths per 1,000 children, which stands at 44, said doctor Raju C Shah.
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According to him, malnutrition, untimely detection and improper treatment of disease, low immunity among infants and low hygiene issues need to be addressed to control the spread of pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and sepses, among others.
'Breastfeeding of khiru or first milk (colostrum) is the best immunisation an infant can receive as it contains various antibodies that strengthen the immune system. Breast milk should be the only source of nutrition for the first six months after birth,' said city-based neonatologist and paediatrician Chetan Trivedi. Other maternal factors affecting the incidence of pneumonia include early-age pregnancy, education level of the mother and the number of pregnancies a woman has had, added Trivedi. Arguing for better education leading to low-disease occurence, Dr Baldev Prajapati said: 'In Kerala, high education ratio leads to better knowledge and prevention, which translates into a better mortality rate than Gujarat.'
Explaining the importance of vaccinations for pneumococcal diseases, director of the paediatric infectious disease unit at Soroka University in Israel, Ron Dagan, said they cause nearly 10 lakh deaths across the world, of which nearly half are children. 'As much as 90% of pneumonia deaths occur in 10 countries of the world, including India,' he indicated. The country accounts for around 40% of the under-five pneumonia-related deaths in the world.