(MENAFN - Arab News) A Saudi medical expert has stressed the need for effective strategies to protect people aged above 50 from contracting pneumococcal diseases.
"As people age, their ability to fight infection declines," said Dr. Adel Fahad Alothman, assistant professor, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences and head of Infectious Diseases Division, King Abdulaziz Medical City - Riyadh.
He was among world-class experts from the fields of research, diagnosis and treatment from across the Middle East and Africa who met in Abu Dhabi recently to address the need for pneumococcal disease prevention among the over-50s population.
According to recent data, people with chronic heart diseases are six times more likely to develop invasive pneumococcal diseases than healthy people and people with Type 2 diabetes are four times more likely to become infected than people without it. This development is especially relevant in the Kingdom, where cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus rates are major public health issues, experts told the forum.
Pneumococcal disease describes a group of illnesses caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae).
It remains a serious condition associated with high morbidity and mortality causing around 1.6 million deaths a year globally and is a leading cause of meningitis and blood infection.
Age is an important risk factor for pneumococcal disease, placing millions of adults at risk worldwide.
The summit provided an opportunity for the experts to discuss the regional burden of pneumococcal disease among adults above 50 years, the remaining challenges in the region and vaccination strategies as an important component in advancing pneumococcal disease prevention in the adult population.
"The role of pneumococcal disease prevention is essential in a population with a high prevalence of risk factors, which is what we face in Saudi Arabia," added Dr. Alothman.
"As health care professionals, we have a pivotal role to play in preventing pneumococcal disease mortalities and morbidity, extending protection to as much of the population as possible, especially those above 50 years of age. As people age, their ability to fight infection declines, increasing the risk of contracting serious disease, such as pneumococcal disease," said Dr. Alothman.
"In addressing the burden of pneumococcal disease, epidemiology and the impact of disease in adults has been examined extensively," he said.
Vaccination is recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the most cost-effective health interventions, as it is with invasive pneumococcal disease," he added.
"People suffering from diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and chronic lung diseases and the over 50s population are encouraged to protect their health against invasive pneumococcal disease," Dr. Alothman said.
"Prevention is the most effective form of protection," he pointed out.
"In the Kingdom, following the approval of the Ministry of Health, Pfizer has now launched the adult indication of its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), against invasive pneumococcal disease for adults of 50 years and older. To support optimal outcomes for patients and reduce the burden of disease, the summit examined the potential impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs)," he said.
"By leveraging vaccination, we can fight the burden of disease and help provide adults over 50 with a new preventive health option at a crucial stage of their lives," said Dr. Alothman.
It is also advisable for Haj pilgrims to take the pneumococcal vaccine, medical experts said at the forum.