'Zero evidence' pediatric pneumonia cases in US linked to China: 4 updates

Health experts say there is no connection between pediatric pneumonia cases in the U.S. and the surge of cases in China and several other countries. 

China, Denmark, France and the Netherlands have all recently reported an increase in cases of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections in children, CNN reported Dec. 1. Health officials in Ohio have also seen a surge in pediatric cases of the infection since August. 

"There has been zero evidence of this outbreak being connected to other outbreaks, either statewide, nationally or internationally," officials with the Warren County Health District in Ohio said in a Nov. 30 statement. "The increase in reported pneumonia cases is not suspected of being a new/novel respiratory virus but rather a large uptick in the number of typical pneumonia cases" from pathogens including mycoplasma, streptococcus and adenovirus. 

Three more updates on the rise in pediatric pneumonia cases: 

  1. Mycoplasma, a type of bacteria that can cause pneumonia, tends to cause outbreaks every one to three years, and the U.S. has not had a surge since before the COVID-19 pandemic, experts told CNN. While the term "white lung syndrome" has been used in earlier media reports, public health experts have since cautioned against its use as it is not a medical term and can create a misleading perception that cases are caused by an unknown disease. 

"We expect that there are going to be some seasons that are worse than others for mycoplasma infections, and it certainly seems that, across the U.S. and Europe, that this year might be worse than other years," Buddy Creech, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University, told the news outlet. 

  1. The CDC believes antibiotic resistance may be playing a role in the M. pneumoniae outbreak in China. 
  1. Over the past few weeks, Massachusetts has also reported an uptick in pediatric pneumonia cases. So far, cases there do not appear to be related to mycoplasma. State health officials said the increase is "seasonally appropriate" and is most likely tied to a rise in respiratory syncytial virus and other respiratory viruses .

"We are aware of the attention to the increase in pneumonia in several geographic regions of the world that has been attributed in part to mycoplasma pneumonia," the state's health department said in a statement, according to the Boston Herald. "There is no evidence that the normal and expected increase in pneumonia cases we are currently seeing in Massachusetts is related to mycoplasma."

China's current outbreak of respiratory illness and cases of pediatric pneumonia has garnered attention from global health officials. The World Health Organization requested information on the country's outbreak on Nov. 22. A day later, Chinese health officials presented global health authorities with data indicating the increase is due to known pathogens alongside the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, some lawmakers and health officials have expressed concern regarding the transparency of data coming from China given the country's delay in alerting global authorities about COVID-19. The WHO said it will continue to monitor the situation in China and verify data. CDC officials have also reiterated the outbreak in China and cases in the U.S. do not appear to be tied to a novel pathogen, based on current evidence. 

"We believe this is all existing, meaning COVID, flu, RSV, mycoplasma," CDC director Mandy Cohen, MD, said at a House committee hearing Nov. 30.


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