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What is 'White Lung Syndrome,' the Ohio child pneumonia outbreak?

What is 'White Lung Syndrome,' the Ohio child pneumonia outbreak?

(NewsNation) — An outbreak of pediatric pneumonia cases in Ohio is causing concern among parents worried that the spread of the illness is linked to a surge in similar cases in China and other countries around the globe.

Ohio is the first state in the U.S. to report an outbreak of the illness, with an "extremely high" number of children being hospitalized.

The strain of pneumonia, dubbed "white lung syndrome," has spawned 142 pediatric cases in Ohio's Warren County since August of this year, according to a press release from the Warren County Health District (WCHD).

The number of cases exceeds the county average and meets the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) definition of an "outbreak."

However, officials do not think it is a new respiratory disease but “rather a large uptick in the number of pneumonia cases normally seen at one time,” according to a WCHD spokesperson.

The average age of the affected children is 8, with the youngest being 3 years old. 

According to NewsNation affiliate WJW, health officials say they don’t have a common threat linking all the illnesses, as that is part of an ongoing investigation.

The cases span multiple school districts, but the WCHD said no conclusive patterns exist among the children diagnosed.

Children are also testing positive for mycoplasma pneumonia, strep and adenovirus, which includes the common cold, according to the health district.

The WCHD said it is working with the ODH, local children’s hospitals and primary care providers to determine the cause of the illness and further prevent its spread.

The outbreak in Ohio comes as the World Health Organization made an official request to China for information about a "potentially worrying" spike in respiratory illnesses and clusters of pneumonia in children, according to multiple reports.

Ohio is not the only area outside of China to report an outbreak. The Netherlands and Denmark are also reported to have spikes in "walking pneumonia" cases, most common in younger children.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined “The Hill on NewsNation” to discuss the outbreak.

"Although we don't have all of the information I wish we would have on the details of who's getting sick and when," Frieden said, "what we believe is happening is sometimes called an 'immunity gap,' that there were years where people weren't getting infected because of lockdowns and therefore are much more susceptible to influenza, RSV, COVID and other infections."

Frieden said that "the key is to investigate."

"When any of us is unsafe, all of us are unsafe," he said.

According to the WCHD, the most common symptoms they are seeing associated with the outbreak of "white lung syndrome" are a cough, fever and fatigue.

Health officials recommend taking necessary precautions to protect your health as we approach the holiday season, when many of us will be gathering together with family and friends, issuing a reminder to "wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when ill, and stay up to date on vaccines."

If you have any questions or need to report a pneumonia case in Warren County, please contact the Warren County Health District at 513-695-2097.