Acute respiratory infection (ARI) is an infection of the respiratory tract. The infection is either viral or bacterial and, in lesser circumstances, fungal. According to The News, “20 per cent mortality among children aged less than five years can be attributed to respiratory tract infections predominantly pneumonia associated.” This article will explore the current status and progress of dealing with acute respiratory infection in Pakistan.
Types and Symptoms
ARIs can be classified as upper and lower respiratory tract infections. URIs include the common cold (rhinitis), sinusitis, tonsillopharyngitis, ear infections, epiglottitis, and laryngitis. In severe cases, deafness or acute rheumatic fever may occur. LRIs include pneumonia and bronchiolitis which are the leading causes of death in children. Hereby, inflammation occurs in the air spaces of the lungs, causing rapid coughing and heavy breathing. Severe difficulty in breathing is the no.1 symptom of ARI. Suffocation may start as a result of the heavy breathing and may continue to get worse with time. This is because fluid enters the lungs, clogging the alveolar passage. Extreme cases, such as asthma, sepsis and pancreatitis may result in death if not treated in time. A rare case of sarcoidosis causing ARI in a 20 year old girl from Pakistan occurred recently. The girl was living in Turkey when she came down with acute fever, fatigue and a cough. Her chest X-ray showed micronodular interstitial disease due to which she experienced ARI.
ARI is a highly contagious disease as it easily passes on from person to person. A number of factors account for the spread of ARI in Pakistan. Dr. Rai Muhammad Asghar’s discussion on The News, poor socioeconomic factors are among the leading causes of ARI. Low literacy levels, malnutrition, unsatisfactory breast feeding and lack of vaccines are all probable causes. Furthermore, high levels of pollution make things worse since deforestation and waste dumps render the air dusty and full of toxins. There is also a lack of awareness and resources in terms of caring for infants. Children not clothed warmly enough or exposed to extremely cold temperatures experience pneumonia. In addition, people with limited knowledge buy baby food from questionable sources, rather than breastfeeding. On top of it all, there is no proper system of administering immunization for these children.
Cases and Statistics
Research shows that between 1992 to 2010, around 16% of children under the age of 5 have been subjected to acute respiratory infection in Pakistan. Moreover, Aga Khan University Hospital conducted a study between January 1997 and June 2001 in which 270 patients were diagnosed with ARI. Pneumonia and chronic bronchitis were among the major causes of ARI. About 34% of the patients required ventilator support and the mortality rate was a shocking 28%. Mortality rate continued to rise as more risk factors crept in.
In such cases, it is always better to discuss prevention rather than treatment. You can avoid acute respiratory infection in Pakistan by ensuring a standardized vaccination process. There should be a protocol that ensures that haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB) vaccine and pneumococal vaccine is available at all times. Also, breastfeeding can strengthen a child’s immunity which can prevent various diseases and health complications. Furthermore, children’s surroundings should be conducive to their health. Babies and children should be kept in well ventilated rooms with access to sunshine in order to avoid infections. Washing hands regularly, having a healthy diet and taking care of personal hygiene goes without saying, in order to avoid the spread of ARI.