by Chiara Bidoli
After China, France has also recorded an increase in pneumonia in children. And in Italy? Interview with Alberto Villani Head of the Emergency, Reception and General Paediatrics Department at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital
After the surge in pneumonia cases in China, which had alerted the World Health Organization, neighboring France also recorded an increase in emergency room visits for pneumonia (+44%) in the 0-2 year age group. Responsible in both cases was Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a well-known and widespread microorganism, especially in childhood, which causes respiratory tract infections.
«At the Bambino Gesù, where we have an average of more than 300 visits to the emergency room per day, at the moment, we have not seen any surge, on the contrary. – explains Alberto Villani Head of the Emergency, Reception and General Paediatrics Department at the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital – Compared to seasonality and if we look at last year’s data, we are not yet dealing with the flu on a massive scale and we have no critical issues with the Respiratory Virus Syncytial (VRS) which are, as a rule, the two agents that generally create the most problems in this period. For the moment, therefore, children like those described in China and France, who are small and with symptoms compatible with Mycoplasma, are not arriving in the hospital, but if they were to arrive in the same way as the Chinese and French children, we are ready to manage cases.”
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is not an unusual agent, it is one of the most frequent agents in pediatric infections, together with Streptococcus. «In the Chinese and French cases, what is surprising is that Mycoplasma mainly affects the little ones, even under two years of age. – continues Villani – Generally, the two microorganisms most involved in infections affecting children are Streptococcus, which usually mainly affects younger children, and Mycoplasma, which usually affects older children. However, what should be reassuring is that Mycoplasma can be effectively fought with antibiotic therapy which is readily available. At the moment, given the current situation, from our privileged observatory which usually intercepts potentially risky situations, there are no alarming signals or elements of concern.”
Symptoms to monitor
Compared to other pneumonias, does Mycoplasma pneumonia have any particular symptoms? When should a parent worry? «Compared to other pneumonias, Mycoplasma pneumonia is more complicated to diagnose because the symptoms can be confused with something else. There is usually a particularly persistent cough, there is no great production of phlegm and often no fever even appears, so you can continue an almost normal life. – concludes Villani – What should alert you is a significant cough, difficulty breathing, high fever, loss of appetite but this applies to all pneumonia. In these cases it is important to promptly visit the doctor who will prescribe antibiotic therapy and evaluate whether further check-up in hospital is necessary. Normally you need to go to the emergency room in medium-severe cases or if the child has less than six months to live, even if his symptoms are mild. What should reassure us and give us hope is that so far, neither in China nor in France, there have been problems with antibiotic therapy. If there is an effective and available treatment, as in the case of this pneumonia, we can be relatively calm.”
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November 28, 2023 (modified November 28, 2023 | 2.53pm)
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