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PRESS RELEASE: World Pneumonia Day 12 November 2017

Stop pneumonia: Strengthen strategies to protect, prevent and treat pneumonia

Cape Town, Glenview, Lausanne, Montevideo, New York, Paris, Tokyo, November, 2017 – In support of World Pneumonia Day, 12 November, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) calls for global efforts to:

  • Raise awareness about pneumonia, the world's leading infectious killer of children under the age of 5 years
  • Promote interventions to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia for all people worldwide
  • Generate action, including continued investment and research to combat pneumonia

Pneumonia is preventable and treatable,

yet causes 2.8 million deaths a year and remains the main cause of death in children under 5 years outside the neonatal period and a relevant cause of death in the elderly. Most deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Pneumonia is also a major cause of hospitalisation, of health care use, and of absenteeism from work. Pneumonia early in a child's life can also lead to chronic lung disease in children and adults.

There are effective ways to protect, prevent and treat pneumonia including:

  • Protect children from pneumonia by exclusive breastfeeding and by providing good nutrition and adequate complementary feeding;
  • Prevent pneumonia using vaccinations, preventing HIV and treating HIV-infected people with antiretroviral therapy; using cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for HIV-infected and exposed children; reducing household air pollution; and smoking especially during pregnancy and at home;
  • Treat pneumonia by ensuring access to appropriate care and availability of antibiotics, early identification of hypoxemia with pulse oximeters and providing supplementary oxygen if needed.

Pneumonia is commonly caused by bacteria or viruses, often existing together. Vaccination is highly effective for preventing some of these infections. Vaccines against whooping cough (pertussis), measles and diphtheria, given in the childhood immunisation schedule, and influenza vaccine given to those who are predisposed to severe pneumonia and to the elderly are important to prevent pneumonia. New, effective vaccines are available against common bacteria causing pneumonia such as H influenzae b and pneumococcus but there are several areas of the world where these vaccines are unavailable. Vaccination of children to protect against pneumococcus is also a very effective way to prevent pneumonia in adults, as children frequently spread the infection to adults.

Every child, regardless of where they are born, deserves access to clean air and water, lifesaving vaccines, appropriate use of antibiotics and oxygen therapy to protect, prevent and treat pneumonia.

FIRS calls on governments, health care providers, funders and public health specialists to ensure:

  • Better access to life saving vaccines for every child and adults.
  • Universal access to health care systems and effective treatment, particularly oxygen and antibiotics, according to standard guidelines
  • initiatives to reduce tobacco smoking and indoor air pollution
  • access to safe drinking water and sanitation
  • strong prevention of mother to child HIV transmission programs and use of antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV-associated pneumonia
  • Increased funding to develop better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent pneumonia

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organization consisting of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latinoamericana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), and Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally. Learn more at firsnet.org.