greenslade1_Lynsey AddarioGetty Images Reportage_pneumoniachild Lynsey Addario/Getty Images Reportage

Ending the Permanent Respiratory Disease Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.5 million adults and children died from pneumonia each year. The cost of not investing the resources needed to fight pneumonia will be measured in millions of lives lost every year and millions more every time a new pandemic strikes.

NEW YORK – COVID-19 has exposed the limited ability of health systems around the world to cope with a pandemic of respiratory infection. With the official death count from COVID-19 now over five million, and the unofficial count estimated at up to five times higher, the struggles of health systems everywhere have been evident to all.

What is less clear is how the world could have been so blindsided by COVID-19. Respiratory diseases have long been the leading infectious cause of death globally. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.5 million adults and children died from pneumonia each year. No other infection causes anywhere near this number of fatalities.

And pneumonia deaths occur in all countries. In high-income countries, deaths are concentrated among older adults, while in low-income countries, children are the primary victims. Many middle-income countries struggle with large numbers of deaths among both groups.

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