An ‘extremely high’ number of children are being diagnosed with pneumonia in Ohio — which is now the first US state to report an outbreak like the one in China.
Health officials in Warren County, 30 miles north of Cincinnati, said there have been 142 pediatric cases of the condition — dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ — since August.
‘Not only is this above the county average, it also meets the Ohio Department of Health definition of an outbreak,’ the county’s health department said Wednesday.
The spread of cases has raised fears that an American outbreak of the infection that has overwhelmed hospitals China could hit this winter. Several European countries are battling similar crises.
But a source at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that, nationally, ‘nothing is out of the ordinary’.
An ‘ongoing investigation’ is underway in Ohio into what is triggering the wave of illness, but officials do not think it is a new respiratory disease — and instead blame a mixture of several common infections all hitting at once.
Patients so far have tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial lung infection for which some antibiotics are useless, strep, and adenovirus, a normally benign respiratory infections.
The average age of patients is eight, though some are as young as three.
There are several theories, one of which is that children’s immunity has been weakened by lockdowns, mask-wearing and school closures during the pandemic — leaving them more vulnerable to seasonal illnesses.
Bacterial respiratory infections usually flare up every few years, normally as people are recovering from a wave of flu or other viral illnesses.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections tend to peak every three to seven years, the CDC says, with the illness having not peaked since the Covid pandemic hit in 2020.
Most infections are mild, doctors say, but those who have recently recovered from a respiratory infection are at higher risk.
In a release from the Warren County Health District, officials said: ‘We 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.’
It added: ‘As we approach the holiday season, when many of us will be gathering together with family and friends, please remember to take necessary precautions to protect your health.
‘Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when ill and stay up to date on vaccines.’
Doctors say patients are mostly suffering from a fever, cough and fatigue.
It is unclear if any deaths have resulted from the illness and officials have not responded to requests for more information.