No link to foreign country with pneumonia outbreak in Ohio county: Medical director

There have been over 140 cases recorded since August.

November 30, 2023, 6:47 PM

A county in Ohio has recorded 142 cases of pediatric pneumonia since August, caused by a mix of known infections, including common cold, strep and a bacterial infection called mycoplasma pneumonia, according to a press release from the Warren County Health District.

"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," the release stated.

Some European countries have reported an uptick in respiratory illness cases, including mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, in recent weeks, according to local health agencies.

Recently, China has also been dealing with a surge of respiratory illnesses among children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The uptick has been partly attributed to the removal of pandemic restrictions leading to a resurgence of known viruses and bacteria, health authorities have insisted.

"There is zero evidence that what we're seeing in Warren County has any connection to any respiratory activity in the state, in the country, or in the world," Dr. Clint Koenig, the medical director of Warren County Health District told ABC News.

Bacterial infections like mycoplasma pneumonia tend to flare up in cyclical patterns, rising every few years. Viruses like influenza, RSV, and the common cold follow similar trends on an annual basis with cases typically rising in colder months.

PHOTO: A stock photo showing a doctor using a stethoscope to examine a young child's chest.
A stock photo showing a doctor using a stethoscope to examine a young child's chest.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

"Despite the headlines that we're seeing in China, there is no indication that there are any new viruses or bacteria spreading from country to country," said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News Contributor.

"This is typical seasonal bacterial and viral activity that we see each year," he added.

"Based on our provisional assessment, we are seeing seasonal trends. Nothing is appearing out of the ordinary, but we are continuing to monitor," said a spokesperson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only a few of the 142 pneumonia cases have been confirmed as mycoplasma pneumonia, according to Koenig. He points out that providers typically don't test for every virus and bacterium, making it difficult to determine which pathogens are dominating.

So far, there have been some hospitalizations including patients with underlying conditions but no reported deaths, Koenig said.

"The vast, vast majority" are getting better and returning to school, he added.

A spokesperson from the CDC told ABC News that it's continuing to monitor respiratory illness activity across the country and remaining in touch with private labs regarding testing of bacterial illnesses.

"Based on our provisional assessment, we are, at this point, seeing activity that is typical for the season, but we are continuing to monitor," a spokesperson from the federal agency shared in part of a statement.

Health officials continue to recommend that everyone over the age of six months old get an updated COVID-19 vaccine and their annual flu shot.

Older adults over the age of 60 are also eligible for an RSV vaccine to protect against severe illness and death. An RSV vaccine is also available to pregnant women to protect newborns as well as a shot for infants under the age of 8 months.

What You Need To Know About This Season's Vaccines
What You Need To Know About This Season's Vaccines
ABC News Photo Illustration

Those with respiratory illness symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat should stay at home, get tested, and seek treatment, according to the CDC.

"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: wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when ill, and stay up to date on vaccines," the Warren County release stated.

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