CDC monitors Ohio pneumonia outbreak

Health authorities are monitoring an outbreak of pneumonia in children in an Ohio county, stressing it appears driven by familiar pathogens with no connection to pneumonia clusters in China and parts of Europe.

Officials in Warren County, which is in the Cincinnati area, reported 145 cases of pneumonia in children ages 3 to 14 since August. The caseload is higher than normal and reaches the state's threshold for an outbreak, but there have been no deaths or evidence of increased severity, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been in touch with Ohio officials and is also monitoring the increases in respiratory illness among children, including potential elevated rates of pediatric pneumonia, in parts of the United States. Officials said the reported trends do not appear to be related to a new virus or other novel pathogen, but instead attribute the increases to several viral or bacterial causes expected during the respiratory illness season.

"As of today, we are not seeing anything that is atypical in terms of pneumonia-related emergency department visits," CDC Director Mandy Cohen told reporters Friday, noting that "a lot of kids" are going to the emergency department for respiratory illness such as flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, which can be dangerous for some infants and young children.

The CDC monitors overall respiratory illnesses using data reported daily from about 80% of the country's emergency departments. Nationwide data as of Nov. 25 shows that diagnosed pneumonia rates in children are not unusual for this time of year, CDC officials said.

The Ohio cases have not caused undue strain on the state's health-care system and the overall respiratory virus trends are typical for this time of year, Cohen said. "Hospital capacity is fine. Children are recovering at home," she said. "There's no evidence that any of those increases are connected to other outbreaks nationally or internationally."

Respiratory illness is spreading in most of the country, and CDC officials said they expect levels of covid-19, influenza and RSV to continue to increase. "RSV season is in full swing," Cohen said, and flu spread is "accelerating fast." Covid-19 remains the primary cause of new respiratory hospitalizations and deaths, with about 15,000 hospitalizations and about 1,000 deaths every week, according to the CDC.

The outbreak in Warren County attracted outsize attention that erroneously linked it to clusters of childhood pneumonia in northern China. The CDC and independent public health experts who monitor China say the cases appear driven by the usual mix of respiratory viruses including influenza, coronavirus and RSV, as well as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a type of bacteria that can infect the lungs. All of these pathogens circulate in the United States.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae can cause several types of infection, including chest colds and pneumonia. While some media outlets have used the term "white lung syndrome" to describe illness caused by mycoplasma, public health authorities do not use the term and some experts caution it creates a misleading perception of a dangerous unknown disease.

Upcoming Events