THE UK is the latest country to report an outbreak of pneumonia as cases of ‘white lung syndrome’ plague China and sweep through Europe and the US.
As many as 49 children in Wales have fallen ill with the respiratory infection, mycoplasma pneumonia, from April to September, health officials confirmed to The Sun.
Children hooked up to IVs on a hospital floor in BeijingCredit: AFP
Map reveals the countries hit by cases of pneumonia and those on high alert
In addition, 12 cases have been reported in England during the same time frame, according to a study.
While it is normal to see a rise in infections at this time of year, Public Health Wales (PHW) has said this is the biggest surge in infections reported since 2020.
It comes amid a return of lockdown measures in China, with masks and social distancing reintroduced in a chilling echo of the Covid outbreak.
Hospitals in the country are reported to be “overwhelmed” with children sick with a ‘mysterious’ respiratory illness, while schools are being disinfected.
Chinese officials have denied suggestions that the outbreak is down to a new virus, with experts insisting existing bacterial infections and viruses are likely to blame.
In recent days, a surge in cases of pneumonia has been recorded in countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Singapore, amid fears it could spread to France, Germany and the UK.
India, Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have also been alerted to check for any likely similar outbreak.
In the US, there has been a spike in cases in Ohio and Massachusetts.
A study in the Lancet revealed the 49 cases in Wales with 12 recorded in England.
Now, a PHW spokesperson has confirmed that to be an unusually high number of cases.
He told The Sun: “In common with many other countries, Wales has seen an increased number of reports of mycoplasma pneumoniae this year compared to the period between 2020 to 2022.
“Although the reasons for this re-emergence are not clear at present, we are monitoring case numbers.”
It comes at a time when cases of other childhood illnesses, like RSV, strep A, colds and flu are high.
While the cases in Wales have been attributed to mycoplasma pneumonia, more widely, it is possible that cases of pneumonia across the world could also be linked to other childhood illnesses.
UK HEALTH CHIEFS CLOSELY MONITORING THE SITUATION
Mycoplasma pneumonia is a bacterial infection that normally causes a mild flu-like illness and will typically clears up on its own.
Typical symptoms usually include a fever, cough, bronchitis, sore throat, headache and tiredness.
In some cases, it can cause more severe illness, which can require a course of antibiotics, and can, in some cases, hospitalisation.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said earlier this week that it is “closely monitoring” the situation.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive, said: “We need to keep an open mind about the cause of any increased reporting of clusters of disease, including of this illness in Chinese children.
“UKHSA is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work with international partners to assess the emerging information as it becomes available.”
Mycoplasma pneumonia is often a milder form of viral or bacterial pneumonia, but its symptoms may last longer.
Professor Francois Balloux, of the UCL Genetics Institute told the Sun the UK was likely due to an outbreak of the bug.
“Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections happen all year round. It peaks every winter, and epidemic occurs every four years or so,” he said.
The last big UK outbreak happened four years ago during the winter of 2019/2020.
“So it’s highly likely that this winter will see a peak in mycoplasma pneumoniae infection across the UK,” he explained.
Professor Paul Hunter, a public health expert at the University of East Anglia said the immunity for mycoplasma lasts “somewhat longer than immunity against viral infections”, which is why we don’t have annual outbreaks of the bug, like with flu.
This combined with the slower transmission of of the bug compared to other winter bugs could have led to the current “build-up” of cases being seen in Wales and in other countries.
What is pneumonia and what are the symptoms?
PNEUMONIA is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by an infection.
This includes Covid, flu and RSV.
The most common symptoms include:
- A cough – you may cough up yellow or green mucus (phlegm)
- Shortness of breath
- A high temperature
- Chest pain
- An aching body
- Feeling very tired
- Loss of appetite
- Making wheezing noises when you breathe – babies may also make grunting noises
- Feeling confused – this is common in older people
Most people get better in two to four weeks, but babies, older people, and those with heart or lung conditions are at risk of becoming seriously ill and requiring hospital treatment.
If you have pneumonia, you should:
- Rest until you feel better
- Avoid contact with other people
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to provide pain relief or a fever
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough
- Dispose of used tissues quickly
- Wash your hands regularly with water and soap