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Spitting Is Pneumonia Threat to Children
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A nationwide education program on pneumococcal disease has been launched in Shanghai, said officials from China Preventive Medicine Association yesterday.

Pneumococcal disease is a common threat to children, especially babies and infants. It's spread by spitting and is caused by a common bacterium which can attack different parts of the body and result in bacterial pneumonia, bacteremia, meningitis, ear infections and sinusitis.

Cooperating with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, medical experts will give courses to doctors and public education in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Nanjing from now until March next year.

According to the World Health Organization, about one million children under five years old die of invasive pneumococcal diseases in the world every year. About 49 children die of the disease in Asia every hour.

Pneumonia is the top killer of Chinese children under five, accounting for 19 percent of deaths between 1996 and 2000, a study found. Pneumococcus is one of the leading causes of pneumonia.

"In addition to death, meningitis and otitis medium due to the bacterium can also disable children, severely hampering their quality of life," said Dr Yang Yonghong, director of China Pediatric Association's respiratory disease branch. "Even a child is healthy, he or she can be carrier of the bacterium."

A survey of 3,578 children in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou between 2000 and 2002 found that 25 percent carried the bacterium and 40 to 50 percent were resistant to penicillin, a major treatment.

Experts said prevention and proper treatment were essential, since early symptoms are similar to the common cold.

The first vaccine for pneumococcal disease is expected to be available in China next year.

(Shanghai Daily August 21, 2007)

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