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Walking Pneumonia

November 29, 2023

The recent surge in walking pneumonia cases in China, particularly affecting children, has once again brought the country’s healthcare system into the global spotlight. Concerns have arisen about the possibility of a novel pathogen, similar to Covid-19, being the cause behind these outbreaks. The World Health Organization (WHO) has requested more details to understand the situation better and address potential public health risks. While Chinese officials attribute the increase in cases to known germs, the need for vigilance remains high. However, Kashmir valley’s leading Pulmonologist, Dr. Naveed Nazir Shah, has downplayed the severity of the infection. He emphasises the importance of taking precautionary measures to protect individuals from not only this specific infection but also other respiratory tract infections prevalent during the winter season. Dr. Naveed notes that the type of pneumonia observed in China primarily affects children. While the exact cause is still under investigation, he suggests that strains of influenza might be responsible for the spread of the infection.  The symptoms of this pneumonia, according to Dr. Naveed, include a persistent cough, fever, and a sore throat, which may lead to extended symptoms. Describing it as a normal flu-like condition, he notes that patients may experience fatigue, similar to any viral infection in the respiratory tract. Unlike typical pneumonia, chest pain and high fever are usually absent or minimal. The gradual onset of symptoms may lead individuals to underestimate the severity of their illness, contributing to the spread of the infection. Walking pneumonia, scientifically known as atypical or Mycoplasma pneumonia, earned its nickname because many infected individuals can carry on with their daily activities despite being ill. Unlike traditional pneumonia, which may confine individuals to bed, walking pneumonia often presents with milder symptoms that can be mistaken for a common cold or flu. The bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae is responsible for causing walking pneumonia. It is highly contagious and can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This makes crowded places, such as schools, offices, and public transportation, potential breeding grounds for the bacteria. Diagnosing walking pneumonia can be challenging due to its subtle symptoms. Physicians may rely on a combination of physical examinations, patient history, and diagnostic tests such as chest X-rays and blood tests to confirm the presence of Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment and to prevent the spread of the infection to others. Therefore, taking general preventive measures is imperative that include wearing masks, frequent handwashing with soap or sanitiser, covering faces while coughing or sneezing, and consuming properly boiled water. Meanwhile, in response to the evolving public health situation in China, the Union Health Ministry of India has proactively initiated a comprehensive review of preparedness measures against respiratory illnesses. The ministry has issued advisories to all states and Union territories, urging them to reassess and reinforce public health and hospital preparedness measures promptly. With the winter season intensifying in regions like Jammu and Kashmir, where respiratory infections are more common, awareness and adherence to preventive measures become crucial.

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M Aamir Khan

Koshur from Bagh-e-MaGarmaL

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