6 things to know about Mycoplasma pneumoniae

Cases of Mycoplasma pneumoniae have begun popping up both in the U.S. and in China, but experts say the outbreaks are not linked to one another and that the type of pneumonia-causing bacteria is not novel. Still, clinicians are being urged to stay alert for possible new cases. 

While Mycoplasma bacteria may not be a "household" name, it is common enough to cause a pneumonia outbreak about every three years, according to CNN

Hospitals in Warren County, Ohio, have reported 142 cases of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, as of Nov. 29. A milder form of the infection has been identified in Massachusetts, Western Mass News reported.

Here are six other things to note about M. pneumoniae:

  • The most common symptoms include fever, chills, sore throat, headaches, fatigue and a cough that worsens over time, according to the CDC.

  • Some individuals can carry the bacteria in their nose without actually falling ill because of it. Symptoms can be milder than typical pneumonia, but tend to last longer, according to the CDC. Individuals who are already recovering from a respiratory infection and those who have weakened immune systems are at increased risk of severe infection. 

  • The CDC believes increasing antibiotic resistance may be playing a role in the M. pneumoniae outbreak in China.

  • M. pneumoniae infections are most common among children, according to the CDC, but anyone living or working in crowded quarters could be as well, since the infection spreads via the air.

  • The infection can result in the need for hospitalization, and there is currently no vaccine to prevent it.

  • Steps including handwashing, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and wearing a mask can help prevent infection.

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