Experts Explain That Germs Cause Pneumonia, Not Cold

Those who keep warm or wear sweater or avoid cold drinks or cold weather with the view that these are the factors that cause pneumonia are disappointed. Investigations have revealed that the dreaded pneumonia is a transmissible disease caused by bacteria, fungi or virus gotten from grubby environment.

This is against the belief of about 90 percent of Nigerians that pneumonia is caused by cold: Either by drinking cold water or contact with air conditioning or cold climate. A public health and child health consultant, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, according to a report by the trios of Mudiaga Affe, Bukola Adebayo and Sodiq Oyeleke of The Punch, said this in a forum in November 2013.

“The organisms that cause pneumonia are highly contagious, the viruses or bacteria can be spread to others by coughing and sneezing, inhaling germs from dirty environments,” Adesanya said.

The health expert who was reportedly said is the founder of a child care foundation – Betterlifemission – continued, saying that research fêted unawareness, environmental effluence and poor inoculation rates as reasons Nigeria had on its chat the high rate of victims of the disease with over 170,000 pneumonia-related deaths among Nigerian children yearly, out of an estimated one million children that die of pneumonia globally.

In the event marking the 2013 World Pneumonia Day, the wife of the Cross River State Governor, Mrs. Obioma Imoke with Adesanya in their individual awareness campaign, said, “Pneumonia is a silent killer. At least one child dies every 20 seconds in Nigeria. It is the number one killer of children in the world and second in Nigeria…”

It was practical from the connoisseurs, warning that no one prevents or treats pneumonia by wearing sweaters or observance of temperature. “Use of cough mixtures in children does not stop pneumonia. Drinking cold drinks does not cause pneumonia. Eating hot meals and keeping warm is not a solution to pneumonia,” they said.

Germs in daycare
A testimony by Mamalette, January 3, 2014, has it that those who were always suspicious that their children in the daycare might contract pneumonia and other contagious diseases might not be wrong. According to the source, “Researchers from the University of Buffalo have found that some objects found in daycare settings may be contaminated for up to one month with common viruses including Streptococcus pneumonia, the leading cause of ear and respiratory tract infection in children, and Streptococcus pyogenes, the bacteria that causes strep throat and skin infections.”

In addition, the lead author of the study, Anders Hakansson, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences appended that, “This is the first paper to directly investigate that these bacteria can survive well on various surfaces, including hands, and potentially spread between individuals.” The account went further to suggest that 'S. pneumoniae and S. pyogenes “survived for hours on human hands and persisted on books and soft and hard toys and surfaces in a daycare center, in some cases, even after being well-cleaned” after an experiment.

Prof. Hakansson was of the conviction that Streptococcus pneumonia is common in daycare centers and a frequent cause of hospital contaminations: “In developing countries, where fresh water, good nutrition and common antibiotics may be scarce, S. pneumoniae often leads to pneumonia and sepsis, killing one million children every year,” he said, adding, “Bacterial colonization doesn't, by itself, cause infection, but it's a necessary first step if an infection is going to become established in a human host.”

Why pneumonia kills more children
Due to the playful nature of children, they easily contract living things which are neither plants nor animals, while playing and lurching into all varieties of dirt like dust and waterlog. Authorities said that children most times contract germs from these places they play on if germs are hiding in such places.

According to a research online, “Once children come in contact with germs (bacteria, fungi, virus, and potozoa) the germs invade their body tissue/pores and get ready to stay for a while, these germs draw up energy from their host (the infected child). They damage or destroy healthy cells as they use the child's energy and nutrients. They may produce proteins known as toxins, some of which cause annoying symptoms of common cold, or flu such as catarrh and cough. They can also cause diarrhoea but other toxins can cause high fever, increased heart rate, low blood pressure and even other life threatening illness.”

It was observable that bacteria are easily spread from children to children than they are spread from adults to adults due to the sportsmanship behaviours of children in the environment. Children are seen in stockpiles than adults are seen. Even when adults gather, they are not playing, unlike children who always enjoy bodily contact at every given point in time.

Appeal to check pneumonia
Mrs. Imoke has appealed to religious leaders, spiritual fathers, opinion leaders, youth organisations and faith-based organisations to sensitise the public on the dangers of pneumonia so that children will stay safe and alive, but reiterating that the approach of some religious leaders who forbid their members from taking orthodox medicine, is uncalled for and an act of wickedness.

“Parents should patronise healthcare facilities instead of unorthodox practitioners when they observe symptoms such as fever, cold or abdominal pains in their children,” she said.

The Executive Officer, Institute of Child Health, University of Benin, Oshodin Hope Osarumwense also appealed to parents to see that germs spread more in dirty environment, adding that cleanliness, they say, is next to godliness “as good hygiene and clean environment save the family from the cost of germs and illness.”

Osarumwense suggested that germs could be thwarted by habitual tidiness of the surrounding and glade of bushes around the homes, ensuring that wastes are not left in the house or near the house for too long.

“Periodically wipe down frequently handled objects such as toys, door knobs, light switches, sink fixtures and flushing handles in the toilets. Sweep the house and compound daily as well as washing the dishes and other cooking utensils regularly.

“Soap and water are perfectly adequate for cleaning, if you like you may try using antiseptic soap, which can kill or reduce bacterial content on an object, you can also use bleach, avoid chemical sprays on the floor, spray and use of chemical may irritate skins and eyes of children, children must also be taught not to eat food or snacks that fell off the plate onto the floor, they must also be informed about regular washing of fruits before eating.

“More so, use proper food handling techniques, separate cutting boards, clean utensils and towels for preparing food. Unfinished food and other food stuffs must be properly covered and kept. Create time for general and all round sanitation of the house,” the source said.

There was a call that those who expose themselves to smoke from cigarettes and the environment should desist as these also lead to pneumonia infections. Adesanya added, “Exclusive breast feeding naturally prevents and protects children from pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition, and other diseases.

“A child with pneumonia in a crèche where hygiene practices are poor will quickly infect others. Parents must ensure that their children attend schools and day-care centres where the owners adhere to good personal hygiene.”

That was even as the National President, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele said: “We want to appeal for the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine into the routine immunisation schedule, as a primary prevention of the disease. Vaccination against pneumonia infections has been proven to be highly effective globally.”

Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.

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Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere