Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Epidemiology and etiology of childhood pneumonia

Igor Rudan, Cynthia Boschi-Pinto, Zrinka Biloglav, Kim Mulholland, Harry Campbell

Childhood pneumonia is the leading single cause of mortality in children aged less than 5 years. The incidence in this age group is estimated to be 0.29 episodes per child-year in developing and 0.05 episodes per child-year in developed countries. This translates into about 156 million new episodes each year worldwide, of which 151 million episodes are in the developing world. Most cases occur in India (43 million), China (21 million) and Pakistan (10 million), with additional high numbers in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria (6 million each). Of all community cases, 7–13% are severe enough to be life-threatening and require hospitalization. Substantial evidence revealed that the leading risk factors contributing to pneumonia incidence are lack of exclusive breastfeeding, undernutrition, indoor air pollution, low birth weight, crowding and lack of measles immunization. Pneumonia is responsible for about 19% of all deaths in children aged less than 5 years, of which more than 70% take place in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia. Although based on limited available evidence, recent studies have identified Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and respiratory syncytial virus as the main pathogens associated with childhood pneumonia.

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