Guatemala. Pneumococci (Streptococcus pneumoniae) are bacteria that can cause infections in many parts of the body, sometimes serious, and are responsible for many cases of pneumonia, meningitis, bacteremia, otitis media and sinusitis. These pneumococcal infections are a leading cause of morbidity, hospitalization and mortality worldwide, with two age groups having the highest incidence and severity: children under 2 years of age and adults over 65 years of age.
Early diagnosis and treatment of severe pneumococcal infections is very important because pneumococcal bacteria are spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact. People can have the bacteria in their nose and throat without getting sick and can pass it on to other people. It is important to recognize the symptoms of this disease, which depend on the infected body part and include:
- Neck stiffness.
- Fever or chills.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Ear pain.
- Chest pain.
- Sore throat.
In America, the incidence of pneumococcal infections in 2019 was estimated at 358 cases per 100,000 children. Among the causes of death from pneumococcal infections, pneumonia accounts for 81% and meningitis for 12%. As for bacterial meningitis in children under 5, there are approximately 1.2 million cases and 180,000 deaths annually.
Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children in Latin America. In Guatemala, pneumonia is the leading cause of death in young children and accounts for about a third of outpatient consultations to pediatric services.
Susceptibility to pneumococcal infections basically affects everyone. However, there are certain conditions that increase susceptibility to this bacterium, such as: B. Age, chronic diseases, overcrowding, poverty, tobacco smoke exposure and the presence of upper respiratory tract infections. It is important to note that pneumococcal infection occurs most commonly in children ages 2 months to 3 years, although it decreases after 18 months. However, from the age of 65, the risk increases again. Older adults are at higher risk of developing pneumococcal disease.
How can you prevent this disease?
Vaccinations are among the measures to prevent pneumococcal diseases. Guatemala has a pneumococcal vaccination program for populations over 2 years of age at risk of severe pneumonia. This includes people with illnesses that alter the immune system and/or chronic illnesses. The update states that the schedule may vary between 1 and 3 doses depending on the risk condition. Previously, the pneumococcal vaccination schedule only included girls and boys under 2 years of age, with 3 doses given at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.
The only requirement for requesting vaccination is the referral and/or prescription slip signed by the doctor, which must indicate the patient’s diagnosis and vaccination history. It is free and is carried out in all health centers in the country’s capitals during business hours and days. Older adults and the vulnerable adult population can get vaccinated at the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGGS).
According to the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, from January this year vaccination will be offered to risk groups over 2 years old, in particular to the population suffering from the following diseases:
- Serious problems at the level of the spleen, an organ that helps strengthen the person’s immune system.
- Chronic respiratory diseases (obstructive pulmonary diseases requiring medication).
- Chronic heart disease (congenital or congenital, heart disease that causes complications and requires medication).
- Chronic kidney disease (kidney failure, kidney transplant).
- Chronic liver disease (cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis).
- Diabetes types I and II, requires medication.
- Immunosuppression problems (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, HIV, people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy and steroid treatment).
- Splenectomy (removal of the spleen)
“As an internist and infectious disease specialist at Roosevelt Hospital, I unfortunately still see many patients with complications of pneumococcal disease and I urge the population who are eligible for vaccination due to age or risk factors to contact their doctor to do so Please.” Give them a signed and sealed prescription stating the condition they are suffering from and then go to the nearest location where they can take advantage of the pneumococcal vaccination benefits. “Remember that the vaccines administered under the national health system are safe and highly effective, so you can have confidence in getting vaccinated and thus avoid severity, hospitalization or death from pneumococcus,” said Dr. Nancy Sandoval, a Guatemalan infectious disease specialist.
Vaccines reduce the risk of developing diseases by strengthening the body’s natural defenses and helping it protect itself. Vaccination stimulates the response of a person’s immune system.