EDITORAL - Walking pneumonia

The Philippine Star
EDITORAL - Walking pneumonia

A person is infected, but doesn’t feel sick, because he can easily move around as if in full health. It’s called “walking pneumonia” – the common term given to Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection, which has been identified as one of the causes of a surge in respiratory illnesses particularly among children in China.

This week the Department of Health said at least four cases of walking pneumonia have been confirmed in the Philippines. The first case was reported way back in January, the second in July and two more in September. The infections were established among the recorded cases of influenza-like illness or ILI, the DOH said; all the patients recovered.

DOH officials have stressed that ILI cases as well as walking pneumonia are not new in the country. Citing five-year data, the DOH has said ILI cases tend to decline during this period, but rise again at the start of the year. ILI cases have spiked nationwide, with 9,834 recorded from Oct. 29 to Nov. 11 alone. This number is 11 percent lower than the cases recorded in the two weeks before that period.

How worried should we be? The surge in China, where the killer COVID-19 virus originated, has raised concern about ILI and walking pneumonia in the Philippines. The World Health Organization has said no new pathogens have been identified, and the surge of respiratory diseases in China has been linked to the lifting of COVID restrictions. Fears are being fanned, however, by China being less than forthcoming about what is happening amid videos posted showing hospitals crowded mostly with pediatric patients.

While downplaying the risks, health experts have also warned that walking pneumonia can be as treacherous as COVID-19, which can start with hardly any symptoms but quickly progress to critical illness. For both COVID and ILI, the most vulnerable to serious infection are the immunocompromised, the elderly and those with comorbidities.

The DOH has said there is no outbreak of walking pneumonia in the Philippines. Amid the seeming dearth of information, health experts have reminded the public to take the usual precautions against infection: regular hand washing and disinfection when needed, practicing respiratory hygiene and masking in crowded public places. The preventive measures are important especially because COVID itself is still around, with fully vaccinated and boosted President Marcos himself the latest patient, in his third bout with the disease.

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