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Paediatric ‘white lung pneumonia’ cases surge in US, Denmark, China

An area in Ohio, US, is experiencing a surge of paediatric pneumonia, including mycoplasma pneumonia – also known as white lung pneumonia – which has seen outbreaks in China and Denmark, as well as The Netherlands.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is a bacteria that can cause mild infections by damaging the lining of the respiratory system. Around 2m cases are recorded each year in the US, with peaks being experienced every three to seven years.

Ohio’s Warren County Health District has recorded 145 cases in children between three and 14 since August, the average age of those infected being eight-years-old, reports The Independent.

The main types of pathogens detected so far were streptococcus pneumoniae, adenovirus and mycoplasma pneumoniae.

While authorities confirmed there has been a “large uptick” in the number of cases this year, it is “not uncommon” for respiratory illnesses to spread among communities during the colder months, they said.

Similar cases have been seen in China on a larger scale, with respiratory illnesses such as influenza, rhinoviruses and mycoplasma pneumonia, circulating in communities.

However, there was “zero evidence” that the outbreak was linked to China, an Ohio district health official said.

Dr Clint Koenig, the medical director of Warren County Health District, said that only a few of the 142 cases are mycoplasma pneumonia.

“Despite the headlines from China, there is no indication that there are any new viruses or bacteria spreading from country to country,” Dr John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, said.

“This is typical seasonal bacterial and viral activity that we see each year.”

In China, respiratory illnesses have reportedly overwhelmed children’s hospitals, with one Beijing children’s hospital recently telling state media that at least 7 000 patients were being being admitted daily.

As reported in MedicalBrief last week, the Chinese Health Ministry said the respiratory illnesses are not new and are all known, while Maria Van Kerkhove, acting director of the WHO’s Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, said the rise in cases among Chinese children could be related to Covid-19 restrictions being lifted in full for the first time.

Cases of mycoplasma pneumonia are also spreading in The Netherlands and Denmark, with Denmark recording 541 new cases, a more than three-fold increase in five weeks from 168, according to a Danish Ministry of Health research group.

Senior researcher at Statens Serum Institut (SSI) Hanne-Dorthe Emborg said: “In the past five weeks, the number of new cases has increased, and we are seeing significantly more cases than usual… and there is widespread infection throughout the country.”

In The Netherlands, the number of children aged five to 14 with pneumonia increased to 130 per 100 000 children in the week leading up to 26 November, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) reported. At its peak last year, there were 58 per 100 000 children.

GPs had also seen more pneumonia cases in the group of youngsters aged 15 to 24 than in previous years. In week 47 this number increased further to 38 per 100 000.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Health Ministry warned that older adults, young children and people with poor immunity should avoid travel to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao due to a surge in infectious diseases, while India, Taiwan and Vietnam have also started taking preventative measures to prepare their healthcare systems.


The Independent article – Mysterious ‘white lung pneumonia’ is impacting children (Open access)


The Independent article – Mapped: Countries where pneumonia cases are rising amid China outbreak (Open access)


The Independent article – ‘Zero evidence’ Ohio pneumonia outbreak is linked to China (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


‘Walking pneumonia’ may be causing rise in paediatric illnesses worldwide


China records 60 000 Covid deaths in a month


Short-course of antibiotics suffices for children with pneumonia


Respiratory virus killing 100 000 children a year – systemic analysis





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