Ohio declares outbreak of 'white lung syndrome,' Massachusetts also seeing cases

Hospitals in Warren County, Ohio, have reported 142 cases of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections in children since August, meeting the state's definition of an outbreak, according to the local health department.

Officials with the Warren County Health District said the 142 cases as of Nov. 29 are well above normal case counts.

Massachusetts is also reporting cases of 'walking pneumonia,' which is said to be a milder version of what's happening in Ohio.

M. pneumoniae infections are also cropping up across China right now. It is 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. 

Sometimes called 'white lung syndrome' the infection can result in the need for hospitalization. There is currently no vaccine to prevent it. 

State health officials in Ohio say they have not determined any specific link between the cases, and recommend clinicians lower their usual threshold to test children presenting symptoms for the M. pneumoniae bacteria. 

"We have an ongoing investigation to examine possible linkages and risk factors…" a Nov. 29 news release from Warren Count Health officials states. "WCHD is working with the Ohio Department of Health, local children's hospitals and primary care providers in hopes to determine a cause and further prevent the spread of illness."

Cases in Massachusetts are not nearing the numbers of Ohio, but Western Mass News reported Nov. 29, that physicians are seeing increased cases of several respiratory viruses including mild cases of M. pneumoniae in children. 

John Kelley, MD, a physician at Redwood Pediatrics in East Longmeadow, Mass., told the news outlet that 80% of walking pneumonia cases in children develop as a result of RSV infections, and the other 20% develop as a result of bacteria transmission.

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