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In the northern region of China, there is currently a large-scale outbreak of infections, including mycoplasma pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19. "Mycoplasma pneumonia" is particularly prevalent, and it is an atypical pathogen causing pneumonia. The symptoms are generally milder than typical pneumonia but can persist for a considerable period. The cases of children infected with mycoplasma pneumonia are rapidly increasing, leading health authorities to advise the elderly and young children to avoid unnecessary outings. If necessary, it is strongly recommended to get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19.
What is Mycoplasma Pneumonia? Symptoms Vary
Mycoplasma, also known as "Mycoplasma pneumoniae" or "M. pneumoniae," is a type of microorganism that falls between bacteria and viruses. It is the smallest known self-replicating pathogen and lacks a cell wall, making many common antibiotics ineffective against it. Different types of mycoplasma can cause various diseases, including pharyngitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. The most susceptible age group is 5-15 years old, but infections can still occur in children under 5. Cases are reported throughout the year in Taiwan, with more occurrences in summer and fall, and major outbreaks happening every four to eight years. The incubation period is approximately 10-14 days, and transmission occurs through close contact with respiratory droplets and nasal secretions. Therefore, schools, daycare centers, and households are high-risk transmission locations. After infection, there is no immunity, and repeated infections can occur.
Mycoplasma pneumonia infection can range from asymptomatic to upper respiratory tract infections, pharyngitis, pneumonia, and infections in other organs. Compared to typical pneumonia, symptoms are milder but last longer, earning it the nickname "walking pneumonia." Initially, affected individuals may experience general fatigue, headache, sore throat, and mild fever. Subsequently, a dry cough may develop over 2-4 days. Younger children may exhibit milder symptoms, while older school-age children and adolescents may experience more noticeable and severe symptoms. Additionally, intermittent coughing and the production of phlegm may occur.
How Long Does Mycoplasma Infection Last? Will it Heal on Its Own?
In most cases, the symptoms of mycoplasma pneumonia are mild, and the illness lasts about one to four weeks. With antibiotic treatment and proper rest, the course of the illness can be shortened to around 2 weeks. While there is a chance of self-recovery through the immune system, caution is needed to avoid transmitting the infection to children, the elderly, or immunocompromised individuals, as it may lead to severe complications.
Dr. Tang Kai-wei, a pharmaceutical doctor, advises that if a cough persists for less than a week, mycoplasma pneumonia may not be a concern. However, if the cough persists, there is a history of contact, other antibiotics are ineffective, or there is a history of allergic asthma, caution is needed as it could be mycoplasma pneumonia. Asthma can sometimes be induced by mycoplasma infection, and the symptoms can be challenging to differentiate. If symptoms persist for a week without improvement or if the infected person is a child, elderly, or has chronic illnesses, early treatment is recommended to prevent severe complications. Even after treatment, infected individuals still have a high level of contagion, so strict preventive measures are essential.
As mycoplasma pneumonia does not confer lifelong immunity, repeated infections can occur. Therefore, proper personal hygiene management and appropriate isolation measures are crucial to prevent transmission. Take care during this autumn and winter season!