What Exactly is Walking Pneumonia, the Underlying Cause of China’s Enigmatic Outbreak Among Children

What Is Walking Pneumonia, The Condition Behind China’s Mysterious Outbreak Among Children?

What Is Walking Pneumonia, The Condition Behind China’s Mysterious Outbreak Among Children?

A rise in respiratory illnesses among children in China has raised concerns among global health authorities. The National Health Commission of China initially disclosed this surge on November 13, linking it to the relaxation of COVID-19 measures and the circulation of familiar pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection primarily affecting young children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), a publicly accessible surveillance system tracking global infectious disease outbreaks, noted clusters of ‘undiagnosed pneumonia’ in children in northern China, often referred to as ‘Walking Pneumonia.’

Dr. Akshay Budhraja, Senior Consultant and HOD of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi, shed light on the nature of this condition and recommended preventive measures in a discussion with the OnlyMyHealth team.

What exactly is walking pneumonia

What Is Walking Pneumonia?

Dr. Budhraja explained that pneumonia refers to any lung infection, but when the infection causes mild symptoms akin to a common cold such as a mild cough, lethargy, headache, low-grade fever, and chills, it’s termed as walking pneumonia. Typically, this type of pneumonia doesn’t confine individuals to bed rest or necessitate hospitalization.

WebMD notes that walking pneumonia is often caused by a bacterium known as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which appears to be the primary culprit behind the current outbreak in China. Although it can affect anyone, Mycoplasma-induced walking pneumonia is more commonly observed in children, military recruits, and adults under 40.

Dr. Budhraja emphasized that this condition is a mild variant of pneumonia and typically resolves within 5-7 days. He pointed out that while it’s rarely life-threatening, there are exceptions, such as individuals with compromised immune systems, reactive airway disease, or the elderly.

Signs and Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia

Symptoms Of Walking Pneumonia

Some of the common symptoms of walking pneumonia are:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Ear pain
  • Chest pain from coughing

Is It Contagious

As per the Mayo Clinic, walking pneumonia has the potential to be contagious, spreading through airborne droplets transmitted via close contact. WebMD indicates that individuals could remain infectious with the disease for up to 10 days.

Preventive Measures

Preventive Measures

Dr. Budhraja highlighted that treatments for walking pneumonia typically involve antibiotics, antipyretics, adequate hydration, rest, and supportive therapies like cough syrup, steam inhalation, and antihistamines.

To reduce the risk of walking pneumonia, the American Lung Association (ALA) recommends several preventive measures. These include:

  • Getting a flu vaccine annually to lower the chances of pneumonia triggered by the flu.
  • Ensuring that your pertussis vaccine is current.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep.
  • Practicing frequent and thorough handwashing.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Additionally, wearing masks and avoiding crowded places can further reduce the risk of contracting walking pneumonia.

In India, the Union Health Ministry has issued advisories to all states and Union Territories (UT), urging them to implement the ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19.’ The objective is to closely monitor trends related to influenza-like illness (ILI) and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) through district and state surveillance teams.