November 20, 2023 13:04
Mycoplasma pneumonia is spreading quickly in Korea after an alarming rise of the respiratory-tract infection was first reported in China.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Sunday, 226 mycoplasma pneumonia cases were reported in 218 hospitals across the country, more than doubling from the third week of October. Most patients are under 12.
"Children have weaker immune systems than adults and infections are spreading in schools and kindergartens," a KDCA official said.
The outbreaks occur every three to four years here, and the last outbreak in 2019 caused 13,479 people to be hospitalized.
The disease spreads through direct contact or droplets. After a latency period of two to four weeks, patients develop a fever, headache and sore throat followed by a cough. Unlike the common cold, which lasts about a week, mycoplasma pneumonia can persist for around three weeks. There is no vaccine.
Eom Joong-sik at Gacheon University's Gil Medical Center said, "Medication used to treat common pneumonia works in most cases, so there has been low demand for a vaccine to be developed."
But cases can turn serious if a patient also contracts flu or other respiratory illnesses, which can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, myocarditis or arthritis.
"Sharing cups, towels or toys in schools and kindergartens should be avoided and people should wash their hands properly. If symptoms appear they should see a doctor," the official said.
The current outbreak began in China last summer, but experts do not fear a major outbreak in Korea. Ma Sang-hyuk at Fatima Hospital in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province said, "China has less advanced medical facilities than Korea and there was not enough preparation to deal with an outbreak. We need to closely monitor the spread in Korea as well, but we're not at the stage of having to worry about an epidemic here."
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