Bronchiectasis is a growing health problem in New Zealand, with disease-related hospitalizations having risen by 30 percent between 2000 and 2013, and the number of annual deaths having more than doubled in the decade from 2000-01 to 2011, according to the Asthma Foundation. The foundation is encouraging greater disease awareness, and efforts at early diagnosis and treatment.
Will that goal in mind, New Zealand will hold its first National Bronchiectasis Day on April 7, 2016.
An uncommon lung disease, most often secondary to an infectious process, bronchiectasis results in the abnormal and permanent distortion of one or more of the conducting bronchi or airways. Symptoms typically include a chronic cough with mucus production, chest pain, coughing up blood, and shortness of breath.
Bronchiectasis affects an estimated 4,226 people in New Zealand, and is increasingly lethal — disease-related deaths have risen from 42 per year in 2000/01 to 84 in 2011. Children up to age 14 are particularly affected, with reports of one death every 18 months and 136 hospitalizations, the foundation said in a press release.
“As health care workers are often unaware of its prevalence, children can be diagnosed when severe disease is already established. A wet or mucusy sounding cough in children that lasts for several weeks is NOT normal. It suggests ongoing infection which may be doing permanent lung damage,” said Dr. Cass Byrnes from Auckland University.
To lessen the chances of lung damage, early diagnosis and treatment is vital. “Children will often have symptoms for 2 years before the diagnosis is made which is far too long. We set the bar too high – children could be diagnosed earlier, get the appropriate treatment with the potential in childhood to actually reverse the disease, which is not possible in adults. We need to target and rescue this problem in NZ [New Zealand],” Dr. Byrnes said.
Parents and caregivers are advised to look for the signs and symptoms that include “persistent coughing that is recurrent and wet, recurrent respiratory infections, hospital admissions, recurrent antibiotic use of any type and school absenteeism,” Dr. Byrnes said.
To honor National Bronchiectasis Day, “Auckland and Northland will be celebrating with children and their families to bring about more education of the condition and raising awareness,” said Camron Muriwai, chairman of the Bronchiectasis Foundation.
The Asthma Foundation, New Zealand’s nonprofit authority on asthma and other respiratory conditions, advocates to the government, raises awareness on respiratory illnesses, funds research for better treatments, and educates on best practices. The Asthma Foundation works closely with the Bronchiectasis Foundation, which supports families of those who have been diagnosed with the disease.