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What is white lung syndrome? Signs, symptoms and preventive measures of mystery pneumonia

By, New Delhi
Dec 04, 2023 05:22 PM IST

White lung syndrome is emerging as a new health concern among children. From symptoms to preventive measures, all you want to know about the outbreak.

After the outbreak of mystery pneumonia among China's paediatric population, a similar illness has been raising child hospitalisation cases in Ohio, US. Referred to as the White Lung Syndrome, the illness is characterized by white patches all over the lungs and children affected by it have been experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever and fatigue. Kids under five may reportedly have sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing, vomiting and diarrhoea. Health officials in Ohio feel the current outbreak isn't due to a novel respiratory virus and could be due to Covid, flu, RSV, or mycoplasma. Experts have advised to get children vaccinated in order to prevent them from the outbreak apart from healthy lifestyle measures like balanced diet, physical activity and good sleep. (Also read | Respiratory illnesses in kids on rise: Common causes and preventive measures)

What is white lung syndrome?

Experts have advised to get children vaccinated in order to prevent them from the outbreak apart from healthy lifestyle measures like balanced diet, physical activity and good sleep.(Freepik)

"The term was coined to describe a mysterious respiratory illness that began to be seen among patients in China primarily with pneumonia-like symptoms. In China, it was found to be due to a combination of various respiratory illnesses, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), Respiratory syncytial (RSV), and mycoplasma pneumoniae. Although it's not considered a new disease, the world which has still not forgotten Covid-19 is in a state of alert! And rightly so, as the number of cases has seen a huge spike," says Dr Ravi Dosi, Consultant, Pulmonary Medicine at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore.

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"White lung syndrome is emerging as a new health issue of global concern. The term was first associated with an outbreak of a respiratory illness in China. It now describes a similar wave of pneumonia that is affecting children across the U.S. Since August this year, around 150 paediatric pneumonia cases have been reported especially in Warren County, Ohio, mirroring a similar outbreak in China. This is once again raising concerns among health officials globally and the exact cause of this outbreak is currently under investigation by health authorities," says Dr Dosi.

"It's a respiratory infection caused by multiple microorganisms (influenza, mycoplasma etc) leading to development of pneumonia.

On CXR it appears as white patches in lungs. Since it's a sudden outbreak (in China) and rapidly spreading, hence the name white lung syndrome is coined to identify this outbreak quickly," says Dr S Vidya Nair, Sr. Consultant, Pulmonology, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad.

Symptoms of white lung syndrome

"In this, white patches in the lung are formed all over the organ. It can be called as a white lung pneumonia or white lung syndrome. At the moment, we are seeing this in China. Many of the children are having both lungs' involvement because of pneumonia and the symptoms start from upper respiratory infection and then it moves to lower respiratory tack that is lung. Patient start having infection, fever, cough, other symptoms, sore throat, watery eye skin rash or symptoms like diarrhoea," says Dr Vikas Maurya, Director and HOD Pulmonology, Fortis Shalimar Bagh.

"The most common symptoms among affected children include cough, fever, and fatigue. We must visit a doctor promptly as early medical intervention helps to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment," says Dr Dosi.

"The clinical symptoms and signs are similar to previous respiratory infections caused by influenza and other atypical pneumonia causing bugs. The symptoms start with flu like symptoms and then progressing to cough, wheezing breathlessness and development of pneumonia," says Dr Maurya.

"White lung syndrome is emerging as a new health issue of global concern. The term was first associated with an outbreak of a respiratory illness in China. It now describes a similar wave of pneumonia that is affecting children across the U.S. Since August this year, around 150 paediatric pneumonia cases have been reported especially in Warren County, Ohio, mirroring a similar outbreak in China. This is once again raising concerns among health officials globally and the exact cause of this outbreak is currently under investigation by health authorities," says Dr Ravi Dosi, Consultant, Pulmonary Medicine at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Amabani Hospital, Indore.

Treatment

The treatment is mainly focused on addressing the symptoms of pneumonia and ensuring the respiratory health of the patients. Medicines are given to alleviate symptoms like cough and fever. overall monitoring must be done and oxygen therapy provided if necessary.

"In the US, this is the flu season, one more factor leading to more worry. It is important to take preventive measures not just in the US, but also for us here in India. These include following personal hygiene such as hand washing, covering mouths when coughing, staying at home if ill, and ensuring that we take the flu vaccinations that are available today. With the year-end festivities coming up, we must be careful to take all precautions especially when attending any gathering, where the risk of contracting a respiratory infection is higher," says Dr Dosi.

"Precautions like hygiene, mask, physical distancing can decrease the risk of respiratory infections including virus or micro plasma like bacteria. Vaccination is also very important. That said if you get the vaccine for influenza, it will not take care of all the viruses but yes will take care of at least influenza," says Dr Maurya.

"Stay at home in case of any flu like symptoms and consult a respiratory specialist. All chronic respiratory patients must strictly continue the medications/inhalers prescribed, any change in symptom warrants review consultation," says Dr Nair.

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