Officials in Ohio confirmed an uptick in pneumonia cases among children amid a surge of cases in China and other countries in recent days.
The Warren County Health District announced 142 cases of pediatric pneumonia since August 2023, according to a news release issued this week. It noted that the figure is above the county’s average and meets the state’s definition of an outbreak.
The release did not point to a specific pathogen that is causing the pneumonia cases but officials stressed that they “do not think this is a novel/new respiratory disease but rather a large uptick in the number of pneumonia cases normally seen at one time.”
Children are testing positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae, strep, and adenovirus, officials said in the release. Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria can cause what some call “walking pneumonia,” which has also been reported in China.
“To date, there has not been a definitive etiology determined or a common thread linking these pneumonias. We have an ongoing investigation to examine possible linkages and risk factors,” the news release stated. “The average age thus far is around 8 years old, the cases span multiple school districts and there have been no conclusive patterns among the children diagnosed.”
County officials said that students should wash their hands, cover their coughs, and stay home when they’re sick.
The district said: “The information was shared so that individuals would be aware of illness in the community and take necessary steps to protect their health” and it’s “not uncommon for respiratory illnesses to spread in the community during this time of year.”
Last week, the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) said it is investigating clusters of pneumonia cases in China and Denmark after an alert was sent out about a rise in cases at Chinese hospitals in recent days. Cases have also been reported in Massachusetts this week.
In response to nationwide attention, the Warren County health agency issued another statement saying that “there has been zero evidence of this outbreak being connected to other outbreaks, either statewide, nationally, or internationally,” although the officials didn’t elaborate.
Doctors Weigh In
Amid concerns about yet another novel pathogen spreading from China to the United States or elsewhere, some doctors said that it appears unlikely to be anything new.
In Denmark, the county’s health agency said that it had seen a significant rise in Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections over the past five weeks or so. About 541 cases have been reported in the past week or so, it said.
“I absolutely support more transparency from China and all nations regarding outbreaks; early warning and rapid response are key to minimizing outbreaks. BUT, this China outbreaks looks like, and feels like, typical pathogens in a population that has been locked up,” wrote Dr. Brett Giroir, a former acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner under the Trump administration.
A pediatrician in Massachusetts, Dr. John Kelly, told a local news outlet that “this is the season for RSV, and we’re seeing a whole lot of it.” He added there are currently “a lot of kids with upper viral respiratory infections, cough, runny nose, some fevers and the thinking with RSV is that it can cause lower viral respiratory infections,” which can spread to the lungs. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a very common viral infection among children that can sometimes lead to hospitalizations.
Maria Van Kerkhove, an official with the World Health Organization, told reporters on Wednesday that mycoplasma pneumonia isn’t reportable to the WHO. It was rising for the past few months but is now on the decline, she said.
“We’re following up through our clinical networks and working with clinicians in China to better understand resistance to antibiotics, which is a problem across the world, but is a particular problem in the Western Pacific and South East Asia region,” she said, reported the Reuters news agency.
Ms. Van Kerkhove also stated that the rise in cases was to be expected.
“We are seeing, in general, an increase in respiratory infections around the world. We do tend to see increases in children because they’re the school-aged children, and in the northern hemisphere it’s the autumn already. We’re entering the winter months,” she said, the newswire service reported.
When contacted for comment earlier this week, a spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Epoch Times that CDC officials are “in touch with local health authorities and its country office in China.”
“Initial reports indicate that there have been simultaneous increases in a number of known respiratory illnesses, resulting in a spike in hospitalizations,” the statement added. “We continue to monitor the situation, collaborating with global health partners.”
Meanwhile, CDC Director Mandy Cohen said her agency is communicating with their Chinese counterparts “to make sure that we’re understanding the situation there” while she appeared during a House subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
From The Epoch Times