Pneumonia outbreak in Warren County not linked to illness in China, Europe
Warren County Department of Health clarifies misleading links to global outbreaks, urges caution and vaccination amidst rising pediatric cases.
Warren County is experiencing a pneumonia outbreak among children. Last week, almost 160 cases of pediatric pneumonia were reported to the Warren County Department of Health. There have been some reports in the media that link these cases to other outbreaks of pneumonia in China and parts of Europe. We asked Client Koenig, Medical Director of the Warren County Health Department, about these reports, and why there is a peak of pneumonia cases in the county.
Client Koenig: I think it's a factor of a few things. The first is that we have a very proactive epidemiologist and surveillance staff. And so it's highly likely that these pneumonia cases are probably widespread. And certainly as respiratory season has started to come into full swing in Ohio, what we've had is a really good connection with our school system and our school districts. And the school districts are reporting to us.
We have a high number of pneumonia cases. We chose to warn our citizens that we are seeing high numbers. That was the extent of our decision to put out a public statement.
Mike Frazier: Is there a common cause or common thread to this pneumonia outbreak? A certain bacteria or virus?
Client: Right now, we don't see any specific link. We've had certain school districts that may be a little bit higher than others, but other than that, there's not a specific demographic that is saying that this is a risk factor or a cause. So we're currently in the process of looking for that if it exists.
Mike: CNN posted on December 1st a story about Mycoplasma, if I'm saying that correctly. (It) has been reported in China, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. And then they cited Warren County in their story. What's your take on that?
Client: Any assumption that our pneumonia outbreak has any connection to any other outbreaks either within the state or nationally or internationally is a false association. We have no evidence to suggest that this outbreak is in any way related to any specific bug or any specific geography outside of Warren County.
But any conflation or any connection or an attempt at connecting our cases with any other cases, both within the state of Ohio, nationally and internationally, is just not founded.
The reason why we reported the increase in pneumonias was out of abundance of caution and education to the community. The fact that a number of pneumonia outbreaks in Warren County coincided with the number of mycoplasma outbreaks in China is completely spurious and not related, and we have no evidence to support that the disease outbreaks internationally and in other parts of the country are in any way related to what we're seeing in Warren County.
Mike: Are you encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated against pneumonia and other vaccinations that are available to them as well?
Client: It is absolutely my recommendation that adults and children stay up to date on the vaccines and also are aware that pneumonia vaccines are multiple and don't come in just one shot or one vaccine, but actually a few that reduce pneumonia, including flu, including COVID, including the new RSV vaccine and including the Haemophilus influenza or the Hib vaccine for kids. Because all those bugs can cause pneumonia.
Mike: Besides getting vaccinated, what advice do you have for parents to help prevent their kids from getting pneumonia?
Client: There's a few things that parents can do to help reduce the risk of spreading infection and getting infected. The really important ones are if your child is sick, keep them out of school. Also, remember, really good hand-washing. Also, making sure your immunizations are up to date - really just general principles of covering your cough. Other things that are going to really help impact the reduction of spread of the airborne viruses and bacteria and bugs that we have this time of year.
Mike: And if they happen to get pneumonia, what's a good treatment plan?
Client: Well, if a parent suspects that their child may have pneumonia, which is typically shown or manifest by fever and cough, that they really need to talk to their child's family physician or pediatrician. Pneumonia can't be diagnosed unless it's by a professional, because the symptoms of pneumonia and the signs of pneumonia, like fever and cough, are also caused by other things. And pneumonia is very specific. It's treatable and also is very serious potentially if it's left untreated. And really, that is something that a professional needs to be consulted on. So, fever, cough, not feeling well…please call your child's primary care provider and review with them potential treatment options and whether they need to be seen.
That was Client Koenig, Medical Director of the Warren County Health Department.