Doctors in parts of Massachusetts and Ohio are reporting a spike in child pneumonia cases similar to the outbreak spreading in China and parts of Europe.

In Warren County, just 30 miles outside Cincinnati, there have been 142 pediatric cases of the condition — dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ — since August.

Health officials there described that figure as ‘extremely high’. ‘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.


Meanwhile, in western Massachusetts, physicians are seeing ‘a whole lot’ of walking pneumonia, a milder form of the lung condition.

Neither outbreak is being caused by a novel pathogen and not all of the pneumonia cases are the result of a single infection. Instead, experts say a mixture of seasonal bacterial and viral bugs are hitting at once.

It has raised fears that the outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals China could hit the US this winter. Several European countries are battling similar crises.

But a source at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told 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 in the county – which is home to around 200,000 people – have tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial lung infection for which some antibiotics are useless, adenovirus, a normally benign respiratory infections, and strep.

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 five years, normally as people are recovering from a wave of flu or other viral illnesses.

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.