Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world according to Dr. Jaime A. Santos when he orient the participants in the Science Writers Workshop at Manila Diamond Hotel recently. The disease is caused by a common bacterium, the pneumococcus, which can attack different parts of the body. When bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia; when bacteria invade the bloodstream, they cause bacteremia; and when they invade the covering of the brain, they cause meningitis. Pneumococci may also cause otitis media (middle ear infection) and sinusitis. Currently there are more than 90 known pneumococcal types; the ten most common types account for approximately 62 percent of invasive disease worldwide.
Anyone can get pneumococcal disease Dr. Santos added, but some groups are at particularly high risk for pneumococcal disease or its complications. These groups include persons aged 65 and older; individuals with weak immune systems due to cancer, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); persons with sickle cell disease or without a functioning spleen; individuals who have a chronic illness such as lung, heart, and kidney disease, diabetes and alcoholism; persons living in special environments or communities.
Pneumococcal disease is treated primarily with penicillin, but in recent years it was observed that pneumococcal strains are resistant to antibiotics making the treatment of the disease difficult and expensive, so public health program must be focused on prevention, which is through vaccination.
It was learned that there are two types of pneumococcal vaccine, the polysaccharide vaccine for adults, and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, referred to as PCV-7, for children.
We hope that Rotary International could extend help in the implementation of the vaccination program against invasive pneumococcal disease, on the same way that they help implement the Polio-Plus two decades ago.(Ruben E. Taningco)