December 18th 2017

Society / Health & Science

Pneumonia now the leading killer in Kenya, but it shouldn't be

Pneumonia is now the leading killer disease in Kenya, causing over 22,473 of recorded deaths in 2015 alone.

By Cynthia Iranducirandu@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 15 Jun 2016 07:51 EAT

Pneumonia is now the leading killer disease in Kenya, causing over 22,473 of recorded deaths in 2015 alone. A year earlier, pneumonia had killed 21,640 people. Malaria deaths are still high with over 20,000 reported death cases last year. AIDS, although manageable with ARVs, is still a great concern in Sub-Saharan Africa, killing over 11,000 Kenyans last year. Anaemia deaths are surprisingly high with 8,472 reported death cases.

According to the 2016 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the regions with highest prevalence of these illnesses are Central, Nairobi and Nyanza. Pneumonia is also the leading cause of child mortality rates globally, killing over 900,000 under-fives in 2013.

12th November 2016 will be World Pneumonia Day. Even with the progressive technology in hospitals today and modern research facilities in Kenya such as KEMRI, it is important to raise awareness on the illness. Pneumonia has stealthily become a public health issue with avoidable deaths occurring yearly. World Pneumonia Day began as a collaborative effort by global community based organizations, research institutions, academic centers, individuals and international non-governmental organizations.

According to the World Health Organization, the signs and symptoms in children that can be clinically diagnosed are problematic breathing due to increase in respiratory rates, coughing, a decrease in the level of consciousness and wheezing. General signs and symptoms of the disease are: headache, loss of appetite and mood changes, nausea, vomiting, increased pulse rate, fatigue, muscle ache and chills. Pneumonia is typically diagnosed based on a combination of physical symptoms and X-rays done on a patient’s chest. Immunodeficiency conditions such as AIDS also make it easier for patients to succumb to Pneumonia.

It is important to note that the disease is preventable. Lifestyle habits in adults like smoking, can increase the risk of the respiratory strain of the disease. Smoking in moderation or quitting altogether could help curb this. Vaccines can also be administered to children. Kenya is among the first countries in the African Region to introduce PCV. Today, newborns nationwide receive the vaccine in 3 doses at 6, 10 and 14 weeks. The biggest challenge however is reaching children in rural Kenya or remote regions with limited access to clinics, dispensaries and hospitals.

In recent years a number of   projects have been initiated in a bid to reduce mortality rates in the country. The Beyond Zero Campaign has provided mobile clinics especially in regions where hospitals, clinics or dispensaries are not easily accessible. Boat ambulances were recently launched in Lamu. Such innovative methods of bringing hospital facilities closer to the ordinary mwananchi can be adopted especially in Nyanza and lake regions where boat ambulances are feasible.

The writer is a journalism student at the University of Nairobi and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.

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