When her son William returned home from school on Wednesday, Mollee Campbell knew that something was wrong.
The usually healthy 14-year-old was extremely pale, had trouble breathing and appeared as though he was about to pass out. By the time he arrived at the emergency room, doctors told his mother that his lungs were full of fluid and his oxygen levels were dangerously low.
“They said that if he went much lower it could have caused brain damage in some way,” Ms Campbell told DailyMail.com. “He was extremely scared.”
William was exhibiting symptoms of what doctors would later diagnose as mycoplasma pneumonia, also known as “white lung syndrome,” a bacteria that can cause infections by damaging the lining of the respiratory system, according to the CDC.
The illness has been deemed an outbreak in Warren County Heath District in Ohio due to the spiking cases in recent weeks. William is one of 145 pneumonia cases between the ages of three and 14 that have been reported since August.
Ms Campbell said that her local hospital was overwhelmed with cases of paediatric pneumonia and that paediatricians were struggling to treat the rising number of patients.
“They said they were overloaded with it in the last two or three days that that was all they had been seeing and they were just trying to make sure they had all the medicine they needed for all the kids,” Ms Campbell told the Mail. “They did say almost the whole floor was nothing but children with pneumonia.”
Mycoplasma pneumonia is the same strain at the centre of outbreaks in Denmark and China. However, Ohio health officials have insisted that the outbreak of pneumonia in the state is not linked to any viruses circulating in China.
According to Ms Campbell, William went from showing mild signs of a cold to having his oxygen levels drop to 75per cent in the span of two days.
The mother-of-two is now speaking out about her son’s frightening experience in hopes that other parents act swiftly if they suspect their children are experiencing the pneumonia strain.
“Even when your kid just has a little cough and it doesn’t seem like a normal one, just to go ahead and take them no matter what, even if it is just to check,” Ms Campbell. “It was a nightmare and I wish I would have taken him a little bit sooner than waiting a day, but these days you can never tell with kids. If your child doesn’t feel right, just contact somebody.”
The average person affected by the illness is eight years old. In Ohio, the Warren County Health District said most children have been experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever and fatigue.
Other symptoms listed by the CDC include a sore throat and headaches. If a child under five contracts the illness, they could also experience sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The bacteria is spread through coughs and sneezes and is usually spread between people who spend a lot of time together, such as in households, schools, residence halls, and military or care facilities and hospitals. Once someone becomes infected, symptoms can appear after one to four weeks and usually last longer than typical pneumonia.
The district said that the illnesses are not unusual and reported that no deaths have been recorded in relation to the outbreak. Health officials warned that the cases are not suspected to be a new respiratory illness, noting that it is “not uncommon” for respiratory illnesses to spread among communities during the colder months.
Similar cases have been seen in China on a larger scale, with one Beijing children’s hospital telling state media CCTV that at least 7,000 patients were being admitted daily. Cases of mycoplasma pneumonia are also spreading in Denmark, reaching epidemic levels and recoding 541 new cases by the end of last week, according to a Danish Ministry of Health research group.
Warren County Health District said that there has yet to be any evidence linking the Ohio outbreak to other surges, whether statewide, nationally or internationally.
Health officials said that the uptick in cases in Warren County follows typical seasonal bacterial and viral activity trends.
“There is zero evidence that what we’re seeing in Warren County has any connection to any respiratory activity in the state, in the country, or in the world,” Dr Clint Koenig, the medical director of Warren County Health District told ABC News.
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