7 cases of walking pneumonia detected in India between April-September; know symptoms, prevention tips
AIIMS detected seven cases of walking pneumonia in India between April to September 2023. However, they have no link to mystery pneumonia of China and US.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae or walking pneumonia that led to surge in hospitalisation cases in China and US was also detected in India by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in seven of the samples collected, according to a report by Lancet Microbe journal. These cases, however, do not have any link with the mystery pneumonia wave in China and US, said the Indian government. Walking pneumonia is considered a milder form of pneumonia, spreads slower, and has symptoms like sore throat, chest pain, headache etc. (Also read | What is white lung syndrome? Signs, symptoms and preventive measures of mystery pneumonia)
"It is clarified that these seven cases have no link whatsoever to the recent surge in respiratory infections in children reported from some parts of the world, including China. The seven cases have been detected as a part of an ongoing study at AIIMS Delhi in the six-month period (April to September 2023) and are no cause for worry," an Indian government press release said.
Indian government assured that "NO Mycoplasma pneumonia was detected in the 611 samples tested at the Department of Microbiology, AIIMS Delhi as a part ICMR's multiple respiratory pathogen surveillance, which included mainly severe acute respiratory illness (SARI, which comprised about 95% of these cases) by real-time PCR."
How walking pneumonia is raising hospitalisations in China
"In a 23 November statement, the WHO said that China’s health authorities have attributed the rise in hospitalizations since October to known pathogens, such as adenoviruses, influenza virus and RSV, which tends to cause only mild, cold-like symptoms. However, an increase in children being admitted to hospital since May, particularly in northern cities such as Beijing, is mainly due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterium that infects the lungs. It is a common cause of ‘walking pneumonia’, a form of the disease that is usually relatively mild and doesn’t require bed rest or hospitalization, but that is hitting children hard this year," says Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
Are walking pneumonia cases found in India similar to China's mystery pneumonia?
"Yes it's the same pneumonia which were found in China. Atypical pneumonia, also referred to as walking pneumonia, it is a mild type of pneumonia that frequently permits patients to carry on with their regular activities. Typically, it is not caused by the common bacteria or viruses that cause conventional pneumonia, but rather by atypical bacteria such Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, or Legionella pneumophila. It is not age- or location-specific. It may affect people in different places of the world, such as China and India, and at different ages, such as children, adults, and senior citizens. It's necessary to remember that different regions and populations may have different rates of respiratory illnesses, including walking pneumonia. Parameters like population density, healthcare facilities, and climate etc, says Dr. Deepak Prajapat, Sr. Consultant - Pulmonary & Critical Care, Metro Hospitals & Heart Institute, Noida Sector-12, UP.
Difference between pneumonia and walking pneumonia
Dr Tayal says pneumonia and walking pneumonia are both types of lung infection, but they have some key differences. Pneumonia is a general term for inflammation of the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs. This inflammation can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
Symptoms of pneumonia can include
- Cough that produces phlegm (mucus)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Pneumonia can be a serious illness, especially for young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions. In some cases, it can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is a milder form of pneumonia that is usually caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae but can be caused by other bacteria, viruses or mold, says Dr Tayal.
Walking pneumonia symptoms include:
- Sore throat (pharyngitis)
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Low-grade fever (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius)
- Mild chills
People with walking pneumonia are often able to continue their daily activities, hence the name 'walking pneumonia'.
Anyone can get walking pneumonia. You’re more likely to get walking pneumonia if they are 2 or younger, 65 or older, or have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.
Tips to prevent walking pneumonia
Dr Tayal says India is implementing various strategies to prepare for and combat walking pneumonia, including:
1. Surveillance and monitoring
Monitoring antibiotic resistance patterns to ensure the effectiveness of available treatments.
2. Public awareness and education
Educating the public about walking pneumonia, its symptoms, prevention measures, and the importance of seeking timely medical attention.
3. Vaccination programmes
Evaluating the potential role of existing vaccines, such as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), in preventing walking pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
4. Community-based interventions
Implementing community-based interventions to promote healthy respiratory practices and reduce the transmission of walking pneumonia.
Dr Tayal shares further preventive tips to avoid the infection:
1. Practice good hand hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public places, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
2. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze: Use a tissue or the crook of your elbow to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. This will help prevent the spread of germs.
3. Avoid close contact with sick people: If you can, avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially those who have a cough or cold.
4. Don't smoke: Smoking can damage your lungs and make you more susceptible to respiratory infections, including walking pneumonia.
5. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help your body flush out toxins and keep your immune system functioning properly.