Pneumonia and bronchitis have overtaken Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as the leading cause of death for people in Africa.
A new statistics published yesterday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed the crippling illness is now the second killer in Africans after years of campaigning for better contraception and education about the sexually transmitted disease.
According to the most recent WHO data from Africa Check, an African fact-checking organization, and also published in DailyMailUK Online, lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis are now the most deadly disease on the continent.
Pneumonia is a viral, fungi or bacterial infection in the lungs that can cause the air sacs to inflame and make breathing difficult.
Bronchitis happens when the bronchial tubes in the lungs get infected. These tubes are responsible for carrying air in and out of the lungs during respiratory processes.
Also, a new report published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine found that two major chronic lung diseases- asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)- kill nearly four million people worldwide annually.
The study calculates that 3.2 million people died in 2015 from COPD- a group of lung conditions that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, often tied to smoking. Asthma caused another 400,000 deaths, the report found.
While asthma is more common, COPD is much more deadly. And while both conditions can be treated, many people remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. In addition, in many countries, treatment- if it exists at all- may be at insufficient levels, the research team added.
“Although much of the burden [from these illnesses] is either preventable or treatable with affordable interventions, these diseases have received less attention than other prominent non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes,” said report lead author Theo Vos, a professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Smoking and air pollution are the leading causes of COPD, the study authors noted. The causes of asthma are less certain but are thought to include allergens and smoking.
One expert in respiratory health agreed that both diseases take a heavy, but treatable, toll on health.
Meanwhile, there were an estimated 760,000 deaths due to HIV/AIDS in 2015, which has dropped from the one million deaths in 2010.
Although fewer people are dying from the disease, experts say the number is still too high considering preventive methods and education efforts have gotten better.
In 2015, an estimated 16 percent of children under-five across the world died from pneumonia or bronchitis making it the world’s leading cause of death for this age group.
HIV/AIDS is now number two on the list for deaths in Africa and it took an estimated 760,000 lives in 2015.
This is lower from the estimated one million deaths in 2010 from the disease. Efforts have been made to lower the death rates by increasing preventive and educational methods across the continent.
But HIV/AIDS still plagues people living in Africa and around the world.
Third on the list were diarrhoeal diseases, which are caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic infections in the bowels.
This is also the second leading cause of death in children under five across the world and in Africa, according WHO.
These infections are caused by dirty and unsafe water, poor hygiene and bad sanitation around where people are living and eating.
Fourth on the list was people dying from stokes, which has increased since 2010. A stroke is caused when the blood flow to the brain is stopped or reduced. Brain cells are not able to get enough oxygen and nutrients so they begin to die.
Heart attacks are fifth on the list and have pushed malaria out of the top five for the first time in years.
Most of the above diseases are preventable with sufficient funding and access to better care.
Countries in Africa, though, continue to be plagued with poverty that has affected residents’ ability to get the care needed to treat these diseases.
But poverty levels have been improving in Africa since 1990. In 2012, only 43 percent of the population lived in poverty compared to 56 percent in 1990, according to World Bank.
By Chukwuma Muanya