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Understanding Pneumonia Trends in the U.S. and Abroad

December 07, 2023

Reports of pneumonia cases have made headlines in the U.S. and abroad, but public health officials stress that respiratory illnesses are common heading into the winter season.

In a statement this month, the CDC noted it was monitoring increased respiratory illness around the world, with multiple areas in Asia and Europe seeing increases in Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Ireland has seen a rise in cases for both children and teens that is above the level last year.

In the U.S., Warren County, Ohio recently reported a rise in pneumonia cases in children ages 3 to 14. As of November 30, the county reported 145 cases. Officials emphasized there was no evidence of a novel pathogen, and it does not appear to be linked to cases in the rest of the state, nationally, or internationally.

“While the number of cases is higher this year, the severity is similar to previous years,” the Warren County Health District said in a statement. “Most cases recover at home and are treated with antibiotics.”

Here’s what you should know:

  • Background: The small rise in pneumonia isn't caused by a new virus or other pathogen. "Instead, these increases are likely caused by viruses and bacteria we expect to see during the respiratory illness season," the CDC noted.
  • By the numbers:  As of November 25, 2023, the percentage of emergency room visits with diagnosed pneumonia was 1.7 percent for children between 0–1 year; 2.4 percent for children aged 2–4 years; and 1.5 percent for children aged 5–17 years.
  • Different types:  The CDC is looking into recent reports of Mycoplasma pneumoniae infections among children. These infections fluctuate from year to year and tend to peak every three to seven years.
    • Symptoms for Mycoplasma pneumoniae tend to be milder than typical pneumonia, but they do tend to last longer.
    • While these infections are usually mild, pneumonia (lung infection) can occur,” the agency notes.
  • In Pennsylvania:  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has a Respiratory Virus Dashboard where you can watch trends in emergency department visits associated with respiratory symptoms.
    • In Pennsylvania, about 14.6 percent of emergency department visits were for respiratory symptoms for the week ending December 2.
  • What you can do:  This respiratory virus season, safe and effective immunizations, antiviral treatments, testing, and other public health precautions like masking, distancing, and hand hygiene will support your health.
    • Flu, COVID-19, and RSV can all lead to pneumonia and all currently have available immunizations for at-risk groups.

Each week on our HAP Emergency Management Weekly Briefing we focus on areas of interest related to infectious disease, in the U.S. and abroad, to bring situational awareness to our members.

For more information, contact Ryan Weaver, MBA, BSN, RN, CPPS, manager, emergency management.