Pneumonia Outbreak

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Sunday, November 6, 2011 – Press Release
Outbreak of Pneumonia in School-aged Children

The Shelby County Health Department has been made aware of an outbreak of pneumonia in school-aged children (primarily elementary and middle school students). At least 20 students have shown a similar chest x-ray pattern, and several have required hospital admission and treatment with intravenous antibiotics. The affected students are distributed throughout Shelby County, and thus the disease is not associated with any one school or other specific location or activity.

The exact cause of the pneumonia s presently unknown, but the primary concern is for the atypical bacteria, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, the cause of ”walking pneumonia”. Mycoplasma accounts for up to 40% of community-acquired pneumonia each year. The illness can be self-limited, but 5-10% of the cases lead to pneumonia, and 5-20 of these progress to pleural effusions (free fluid in the chest). Mycoplasma is called an atypical bacterium because its cell wall is different than that of more typical bacteria, and antibiotics like penicillins and-cephalexin are not effective. Fortunately, there are other antibiotics that work against Mycoplasma, including erythromycin (Z-Pak), fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Levaquin), and the tetracyclines (doxycycline).

The onset of Mycoplasma pneumonia is insidious with the development of cough, sore throat, headache, low grade fever, chills, and muscle aches. These symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, including seasonal influenza (“flu”).

The Indiana State Department of Health is providing special testing kits for Mycoplasma to local physicians, and hopefully the specific cause of the pneumonia outbreak will be known soon.

Mycoplasma is transmitted via droplets usually transmitted by cough or other contact with saliva One of the primary ways to contain the outbreak is to keep ill children home from school if they are sick. If your children have a cough and any of the symptoms above, please keep them home from school and seek evaluation from your primary care physician. As always, cough into your sleeve, wash your hands frequently or use antibiotic hand gel, and dispose of tissues properly.

Thursday, November 10, 2011 – Press Release
Most pneumonia NOT Mycoplasma

The Indiana State Department of Health made testing kits available for Mycoplasma pneumoniae available earlier this week.  The first test results are now available.  Nineteen patients aged 14 months to 56 years were tested.  Only one patient tested positive for Mycoplasma pneumoniae.  The samples that were negative for Mycoplasma were also tested for several common respiratory viruses.  Seven of these patients tested positive for enteroviruses or human metapneumovirus.  Like the common cold, bronchitis or pneumonia caused by viruses in healthy individuals should resolve with supportive treatment and does not depend on usual antibiotics.  If you think you are ill, you should be seen by your primary care physician.  Further information will be available from the ISDH next week.

The observed cluster of pneumonia cases does not constitute an outbreak of Mycoplasma pneumonia.  However, these cases underscore the need for continued vigilance and adherance to good hand-washing or hand gel use and other prevention techniques such as coughing into your sleeve, as well as staying home when you are sick.

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