Social media threads are on heightened alert due to reports of people getting afflicted with—and dying of—pneumonia. While the Department of Health (DOH) is quick to dispel rumors that there is an outbreak of the inflammatory infection in the Philippines, many are still alarmed, as more are being admitted to hospitals because of it.
We consulted Dr. Bernadette Trinidad Seludo, an Adult Infectious Disease Specialist, at the Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center, to answer our most pressing questions about this recent health scare:
What is a pneumonia and what are its symptoms?
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
The symptoms of pneumonia and influenza (or flu) are actually the same. A patient may have fever, muscle and joint pains, itchy or sore throat, cough, colds, headache, chills. While both flu and pneumonia can be both caused by a virus, the latter can also be caused by causative microorganisms like fungi or bacteria. And since the two have overlapping symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor for a workup—undergo blood test, or chest x-ray.
Is there a pneumonia scare now in the Philippines?
When you say there is “a scare,” it’s like there is a new pneumonia strain that was discovered. As far as I know, there is none.
There have been reports circulating about people dying of pneumonia. What could possibly be the reason behind these deaths?
Filipinos have a tendency to self-medicate. Then they’ll only consult the doctor when they have gotten worse. Any medical condition, if not treated properly and promptly, can lead to complications, which could result to death.
We should also look at the profile of patients. The most susceptible are the very young (0 to 2 years old) and the elderly. At high risk as well are people with other health conditions—people with diabetes, high blood, cancer, HIV, and patients who are immunocompromised. (Once you’re taking maintenance medications, you are already considered immunocompromised.)
Another factor could also be the climate. A virus jumps from person to another and spreads easily when the air is cold and dry.
Is it contagious?
You can get infected through contact or through droplets. So if you are talking to someone who has pneumonia, and you have a weak immune system, you can get infected. It’s passed on from person-to-person.
What are precautionary measures that can be done to prevent us from having pneumonia?
One, always wash our hands. Two, observe cough etiquette—cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, and throw away properly in a waste basket. Three, wear a mask to avoid spreading the infection. Isolate yourself if you’re infected. Four, avoid crowded places, especially if you have a weak immune system. And finally, the best precaution is to get a pneumonia vaccination every five years.
It also goes without saying that you should strengthen your immune system by living a healthy lifestyle—eat the right food, and exercise. If you feel the symptoms, have yourself checked. Don’t simply ask your neighbors what they took when they felt similar symptoms.
Who should get a pneumonia vaccination?
Children ages 2 years and below, the elderly (ages 50 and above), those with other health conditions like diabetes and cancer, those who are immunocompromised, those with autoimmune disorders, those who work in hospitals, those in jails—they are all at high risk–and should get vaccinated.
For consultation schedules, you may reach Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center at 464-9999; St. Luke’s Medical Center’s Infection Control Service at 723-0101 ext 4730/4749 (Quezon City) or 789-7700 ext 5051 / 5090 (BGC); The Medical City at 988-1000 or 988-7000.