China's new pneumonia epidemic may last till next year

Beijing: A new pneumonia epidemic that hit Beijing last year may continue till next year and eventually spread to other parts of China and neighbouring countries in Asia, say experts. Mycoplasma pneumoniae (M. pneumoniae) infections began rising in the capital city last spring, and by December this pathogen was found in more than half of hospitalised children suffering from pneumonia in that city, according to investigators from the Capital Institute of Pediatrics, Beijing. This type of pneumonia is also called atypical pneumonia because the symptoms are different from those of pneumonia due to other common bacteria, according to US National Library of Medicine. From May to December 2015, the rate of diagnoses positive for M. pneumoniae in children nearly doubled, from 30 percent to 57 percent, said Hongmei Sun of the Capital Institute of Pediatrics.  In the study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the researchers predict that this would affect more children in 2016 and could last longer than expected.  As the epidemic continues in Beijing, the investigators predict that related outbreaks will occur elsewhere in China, and possibly in other Asian countries, said Sun. As a result of these findings, Beijing doctors are being advised to be alert for M. pneumoniae, Sun said.  "We have started investigating the rate of M. pneumoniae infection in several other regions of China, along with other Chinese Mycoplasma experts," Sun noted.  Children infected with M. pneumoniae typically come down with chest colds. Sore throat, fever, fatigue, headache, and a slowly worsening cough that can last for months are common symptoms, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Children under five typically do not have fevers, but may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. People at highest risk live or work in crowded conditions, such as schools, hospitals, and dormitories.