Pneumonia cases on the rise, DOH urges vulnerable groups to keep masks on
Vulnerable groups are advised to “please be comfortable to still wear masks when outdoors.”
Health Assistant Secretary Beverly Ho said this in the wake of an an almost 50-percent uptick in the number of confirmed pneumonia cases in the country in the first 10 months of the year.
Based on the latest data from the Department of Health (DOH), a total of 158,762 pneumonia cases were reported from January to October, a 46-percent jump from the 108,982 infections recorded during the same period in 2022.
More cases are expected in the cooler months ahead, Ho said on Friday, adding that wearing face masks is still one of the most effective protections against respiratory ailments.
“Enhanced outpatient and inpatient surveillance has been implemented for respiratory illness since mid-October, which may have contributed to the observed increase in detection and reporting,” the DOH added.
The rise in pneumonia cases was noted amid a reported spike in respiratory illnesses in China, which has caused global concern.
“Given this, the DOH also continuously works to further mitigate cases in the country through strengthened monitoring (and) implementing catch-up immunization and outbreak response immunization strategies, especially in areas with increasing incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases,” the agency said in a statement.
Ho advised those having coughs for more than two weeks to immediately consult a doctor as symptoms may point to other illnesses, such as tuberculosis. “Don’t wait for [your symptoms] to progress to something severe,” she said.On Wednesday, the DOH issued an advisory on the reported clusters of respiratory illnesses among children in northern China, where initial findings attributed the cases to Mycoplasma pneumoniae, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza.
However, it noted that the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention had “clarified that no changes in disease presentation were observed, and no unusual or novel new pathogens have been detected” among the cases.
According to the DOH, Mycoplasma pneumoniae is “a common bacterial infection which typically affects young children.”
But it is “not a regular pathogen,” hence physicians would usually request for laboratory testing, DOH spokesperson Enrique Tayag explained in a television interview on Thursday. “If (doctors) suspect it, they’d give the antibiotic suited for it.” ‘Walking pneumonia’
He said Mycoplasma pneumoniae is also called “walking pneumonia” for it is “so contagious” and can easily be transmitted through close contact even before the onset of symptoms. “[It is] notorious for reinfection. After treatment, it can linger for weeks, and that’s when patients infected with this bacteria would complain of coughing (that lasts) for weeks.”
Meanwhile, cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the country have slowed down, with 10,242 cases recorded last month, reflecting a 20-percent decrease in infections in the past two weeks.
Overall, ILI cases nationwide reached 182,721 between Jan. 1 and Nov. 11. The number was 51 percent higher than the 121,160 cases reported in the same period last year.
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