White Lung Syndrome detected in two U.S. states and media revs up fear machine

For many, it feels like a bad case of déjà vu.

Just as the election cycle is shifting into high gear, an outbreak of “white lung” pneumonia has spread to the United States from China and parts of Europe, and the media is warning it has “raised fears” that it could overwhelm U.S. hospitals “this winter.”

According to DailyMail.com, “Doctors in parts of Massachusetts and Ohio are reporting a spike in child pneumonia cases similar to the outbreak spreading in China and parts of Europe.”

The outlet reports:

In Warren County, just 30 miles outside Cincinnati, there have been 142 pediatric cases of the condition — dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ — since August, a figure health officials there described as ‘extremely high’.

‘Not only is this above the county average, it also meets the Ohio Department of Health definition of an outbreak,’ the county’s health department said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in western Massachusetts, physicians are seeing ‘a whole lot’ of walking pneumonia, a milder form of the lung condition, which is being caused by a mixture of bacterial and viral infections.


Unlike with the COVID pandemic, the outbreaks are not being caused by a novel pathogen or even by the same infection.

This time around, according to the experts, “a mixture of several seasonal bacterial and viral bugs are hitting at once, putting pressure on hospitals.”

“It has raised fears that the outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals China could hit the US this winter,” DailyMail.com ominously reports. “Several European countries are battling similar crises.”

This time around, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appears to be downplaying the illnesses. According to one Daily Mail source at the CDC, on a national level, “nothing is out of the ordinary.”

“I would caution against extrapolating one Ohio county to a country of 330 million people,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, told DailyMail.com.

Still, with post-COVID bacterial and viral infections now rebounding, Adalja said it would not be surprising if “some places in the US are above baseline.”

In Warren County, home to roughly 200,000 people, patients “have tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial lung infection for which some antibiotics are useless, adenovirus, a normally benign respiratory infections, and strep,” DailyMail.com reports.

“The average age of patients is eight,” the outlet states, “though some are as young as three.”

While an investigation in Ohio into what is triggering the new wave of sick children is underway, one theory points to the COVID-19 lockdowns, school closures, and mask mandates, which weakened children’s immunity.

“Bacterial respiratory infections usually flare up every five years,” DailyMail.com notes, “normally as people are recovering from a wave of flu or other viral illnesses.”

“Most infections are mild, but those who have recently recovered from a respiratory infection are at higher risk,” the outlet adds.

Fever, cough, and fatigue are reported by most patients, and it is unclear if the illness has resulted in any deaths. The Warren County Health District urged residents to take all-too-familiar precautions.

“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,” it stated.

“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,” it advised. “Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when ill and stay up to date on vaccines.”

“When children are born they haven’t experienced any infectious diseases so more of them you have in population so lower threshold for outbreak to start,” Adalja said. “That group of children born provide new people for illnesses. The pandemic allowed the number of these susceptible people to build up over years.”

Melissa Fine


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