New strategies to tackle pneumonia and meningitis, including shorter antibiotic regimens and simple methods of treatment that can be implemented at home rather than in a hospital were discussed by researchers at a meeting on Childhood Pneumonia and Meningitis: Recent Advances, held at Aga Khan University (AKU). In Pakistan the Hib bacterium, one of the two bacteria which causes most cases of meningitis and pneumonia, kills 23,000 children under five each year.
“Pneumonia, alone, is responsible for 1.8 million deaths annually – 800,000 of which are children under the age of five – making pneumonia a bigger killer of children than HIV, malaria and measles combined,” said Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Interim Head, Division of Maternal and Child Health, AKU. Meningitis, though less known than pneumonia, accounts for 400,000 annual deaths worldwide. “But the general public is largely unaware of the risks these diseases pose to young children and the simple steps they can take to protect their sons or daughters,” said Professor Anita Zaidi, Division of Maternal and Child Health.
Health experts at the meeting focused on the new vaccines that are now available to combat both of these deadly diseases. Dr Altaf Bosan, National Manager, Expanded Program on Immunization, spoke about the progress made since the Hib vaccine – which protects against Hib, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B diseases – was introduced in Pakistan last year in November.
Dr Ciro A. de Quadros, Executive Vice President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, one of the world’s leading supporters of global immunisation initiatives, gave the keynote address. He noted the challenges of treating these diseases like the emerging resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, but stressed that international initiatives like the Hib vaccine, are positive steps in eradicating the threats posed by these diseases.
The conference, sponsored by the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts and the Hib Initiative, brought together a number of important stakeholders in child health in Pakistan including health professionals, representatives from the Ministry of Health and EPI officials. Dr Rashid Jooma, Director General Health, Government of Pakistan, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Minister for Health, Sindh, and Dr M. A. Arif, General Secretary, Pakistan Paediatric Association all spoke at the meeting hosted by the Division of Maternal and Child Health.
Department of Public Affairs
Aga Khan University
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