World Pneumonia Day and its significance amid COVID-19 pandemic

Pneumonia can affect anyone but certain groups of people have a higher risk of getting the infection.

November 12th is World Pneumonia day and this year its significance has increased many folds because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pneumonia could be caused by bacteria, Virus or Fungi. Pneumonia happens to be the single biggest infectious killer and is completely preventable.

Pneumonia has claimed the lives of 2.5 million people in 2019 and this includes 672,000 children. One can also include another 2 million deaths which have been caused by COVID-19 in 2020. Pneumonia is an infectious disease of the Lungs and COVID -19 also mimics Pneumonia to a large extent and the treatment of the two ailments are akin in many respects.

The respiratory system of humans is made up of different parts and starts from the nasal passage, followed by the windpipe, which bifurcates into two branches each going to the two lungs. The function of the lungs is to oxygenate the blood which happens in the numerous sacs like structures in the lungs known as alveoli. Infection of the nasal passage leads to what is known as the common cold. If the infection spreads to the bronchus it is termed bronchitis. However, when the infection spreads to the air sacs in the lungs, it becomes life-threatening and Pneumonia ensues. 

The disease is characterized by cough with excess mucus secretions, pain while breathing, lack of appetite and breathlessness. It is important to know the origin of pneumonia, bacterial, viral or fungal. Treatment for all three forms of Pneumonia is different.

Pneumonia can affect anyone but certain groups of people have a higher risk of getting the infection. AIDS patients with lower immunity, cancer patients on immunosuppressive drugs, smokers, and unvaccinated persons have a higher risk of getting pneumonia.

There are a number of myths associated with Pneumonia. The most common myth is that Pneumonia is just a bad cold. This is not true because Common Cold is caused by a virus. Pneumonia is a bacterial disease and needs a course of antibiotics. However common cold must not be neglected since bacterial infections can happen due to the weakened immune system caused by the common cold.

Pneumonia or in fact any infection can happen when the immune system is under stress. Flu is a common factor that can precipitate and incidence of Pneumonia. COVID-19 could also become a factor. COVID-19 primarily affects the respiratory tract and can aggravate to cause Pneumonia. Therefore any flu symptoms must not be ignored and medical advice must be immediately sought. The Doctor can look for telltale signs of Pneumonia and can preempt the disease before it spreads uncontrollably.

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