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Amidst a surge of mysterious childhood pneumonia cases in China, and as outbreaks emerge in the U.S., experts are investigating potential causes and offering guidance.
Dr. Sarah Park, a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and currently the medical director of medical affairs at Karius, a California biotech company, attributes the increase in respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, to common pathogens like Mycoplasma pneumoniae, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenoviruses, and influenza virus.
« There is no evidence of a new virus causing these illnesses, » Park stated.
Park has extensive experience combating diseases such as bacterial respiratory diseases, West Nile Virus, and SARS.
« The condition has been dubbed ‘white lung syndrome‘ due to the appearance of chest scans that reveal ‘diffusely damaged lungs’ associated with severe pneumonia cases, » Park explained.
Dissecting the Causes: Factors Behind the Escalating Outbreak
Weakened Immunity: Prolonged lockdowns and other COVID-19 containment measures have limited people’s exposure to common pathogens, potentially reducing population immunity levels. As a result, individuals are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses when exposed to these pathogens.
Post-Pandemic Effects: Experts believe that the post-pandemic period is contributing to the surge in respiratory illnesses. After two years of strict COVID-19 measures, people are once again interacting more frequently and without the same level of precautions. This increased exposure to common pathogens, combined with reduced immunity, is likely driving the rise in respiratory infections.
Seasonal Factors: Respiratory illnesses typically surge during the colder months, due to changes in temperature and humidity that favor the spread of viruses and bacteria. This seasonal trend is likely exacerbating the post-pandemic increase in respiratory infections.