An Ohio mom has revealed how her healthy teenage son was ‘hours away from brain damage’ after being struck down by the same pneumonia rising in China.
William McCarren, 14, was rushed to hospital Wednesday after he came home from school ‘crying and grabbing his chest’ saying he could ‘barely breathe.’
‘He was very pale and he could barely stay awake, he was acting like he was going to pass out,’ his mother, Mollee Campbell, told DailyMail.com.
When he arrived at the ER, the doctors told her William’s lungs were so full of fluid it was starving his body and organs of oxygen.
‘They said that if he went much lower it could have caused brain damage in some way,’ said Mollee, holding back tears. ‘He was extremely scared. We got really lucky.’
William was diagnosed with mycoplasma, the bacterial infection at the center of pneumonia outbreaks in China and several European countries.
He is one of more than 140 children in the Warren County area of Ohio to fall ill with the lung condition, where doctors say cases are so high they ‘meet the definition of an outbreak’.
William McCarren, 14 and from Middletown, was rushed to hospital on Wednesday after he came home from school crying and saying he was struggling to breathe. He is pictured above in hospital
William is pictured above with his mother Mollee before he suffered from pneumonia
Mollee said: ‘They [the pediatricians] said they were overloaded with it [pneumonia] 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 al the kids.’
‘They did say almost the whole floor was nothing but children with pneumonia.’
Warren County health officials said Thursday that it has treated an ‘extremely high’ number of children with pneumonia – 145 cases since August.
The average patient is around 8 years old and no deaths have been reported, but the volume of patients is unusual.
Mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that causes outbreaks every five or so years — but it rarely makes headlines because cases are mild and deaths extremely rare.
The difference this time, experts told DailyMail.com, is that children’s immunity is low following lockdowns, school closures and mask mandates.
The bacterial infection is also believed to be driving the outbreak in China that has overwhelmed pediatric hospitals in the North.
It is also driving cases and deaths in parts of Europe, including the Netherlands and Denmark.
But doctors have stressed the outbreaks are not the result of infections being transferred from country to country.
Will (left before the illness and right in hospital) had fluid in both of his lungs, doctors said
The above highlights the two locations where rises in pneumonia cases in children have been reported in the US so far. They are Warren County, Ohio, and East Longmeadow, in Massachusetts
Clad in hazmat suits, gloves and masks, the staff are shown walking between desks in classrooms, hallways and even outdoors while releasing a mist of sterilising liquid
This cycle of mycoplasma is happening at a time when children’s immunity is weak because they were robbed of vital immunity during Covid lockdowns.
What is causing the ‘white lung’ pneumonia outbreak? Everything we know so far
What is the current situation?
The WHO has placed an additional request to China for more information on its outbreak and data showed the country is experiencing an increased number of children sick with mycoplasma pneumoniae – bacteria that causes mild infections of the respiratory system – since May.
And in signs eerily reminiscent of Covid, Chinese officials have called for masks and social distancing.
While China continues to deal with its own overrun hospitals and children out sick from school, outbreaks have begun to crop up in Europe.
On Thursday, Danish health officials said they were also dealing with a surge in the same type of pneumonia afflicting China.
What is causing the spike in pneumonia cases?
The outbreaks in the US, like China, are not being caused by a novel pathogen and not all of the pneumonia cases are being caused by the same infection.
Experts say a mixture of several seasonal bacterial and viral bugs are hitting at once, putting pressure on hospitals.
Many patients with respiratory symptoms are testing positive for a bacterium called mycoplasma pneumoniae, a pathogen that causes mild pneumonia.
Positive tests have also returned for adenovirus, a normally benign respiratory infection, and strep.
Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, told DailyMail.com he believes the pneumonia outbreaks cropping up around the world could be due to the ‘cyclical’ nature of mycoplasma.
What is mycoplasma pneumoniae?
Mycoplasma pneumonia is caused by a very small, ‘atypical’ bacterium called mycoplasma pneumoniae, which can lead to upper respiratory tract infections and pneumonia.
It causes illness by damaging the lining of the respiratory tract, including the throat, lungs and windpipe and is one of the most common causes of community-acquired pneumonia in the US.
The bacterium causes people with the lung infection to present with ‘atypical’ characteristics compared to those people experience with ‘typical’ pneumonia caused by germs or complications from another illness.
The bacterium spreads through droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It can linger in the nose and throat without making a person sick, but if it spreads to the lungs, people can develop mycoplasma pneumonia.
Mollee, talking about when Will was rushed to hospital, said: ‘I started crying my eyes out, I was so frantic. Neither one of my kids have ever had a serious illness.’
It came as a major shock after her boy — who ‘loves fishing, wrestling and the outdoors’ — saw his cough develop into an infection leaving him struggling to breathe.
Fighting back tears in an interview, she said: ‘He is always the first one to help you if you need it and he always sticks up for someone who is in trouble or anything like that.
‘He excels in school, is extremely smart and loves history. The Titanic and the Civil War, those are his favorite topics.’
He came back from school on Wednesday pale, struggling to breathe and coughing up a lot of mucus, his mother said.
Mollee immediately rushed him to hospital where, once she told the receptionist her son ‘couldn’t breathe’, they automatically rushed him through to be seen by doctors.
Tests showed his blood oxygen level had fallen to about 75 percent. At 70 percent, it is considered life threatening.
Mollee added: ‘He was extremely scared.
‘He kept telling me how thankful he was that I was there by his side and that he was just glad that it wasn’t worse.
William was discharged from hospital on Friday, but doctors have told his mother to keep a close eye on him and bring him back if he starts struggling to breathe again.
Giving advice to other mothers, Mollee said: ‘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.
‘Like with me, we waited about a day or two when I should have took him earlier.
‘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.’
DailyMail.com revealed Warren County’s pediatric pneumonia outbreak Thursday.
Parts of Western Massachusetts are also seeing unusually high levels of mycoplasma, sometimes described as ‘walking pneumonia’ because it causes mild illness so patients are still mobile.
But respiratory illnesses across the board are up – as is the case in China.
Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, told DailyMail.com it was a ‘global’ phenomenon.
He believes the pneumonia outbreaks cropping up around the world could be due to the ‘cyclical’ nature of mycoplasma.
Bacterial respiratory infections usually flare up every five years, normally as people are recovering from a wave of flu or other viral illnesses.
Global immunity against seasonal illnesses is also low because pandemic restrictions robbed people of immunity against the infections – especially China, which locked down harder and longer.
‘So what’s happening in China makes sense’, Dr Adalja said, adding: ‘Last year we [the US] was dominated by so much Covid, flu and RSV when we opened up.’
Children are particularly vulnerable because social interaction during people’s early developmental years is crucial.
‘When children are born they haven’t experienced any infectious diseases, so the more of them you have in the population so lower threshold for an outbreak to start.
‘The pandemic allowed the number of these susceptible people to build up over years.’
Will, who is pictured above on his 14th birthday in October, has now been discharged – but doctors have said he should be brought back if he begins to struggle to breathe again
Will (middle) is the eldest of three children. He is pictured above with his brother Bryce, 11, and sister Corrah, 3
His mother Mollee posted about her child’s illness on Facebook
The above graph shows deaths from pneumonia and flu among children aged under 18 years old since the 2019 to 2020 flu season. It shows that despite reports the current season nationwide is ‘not out of the ordinary’
Despite Beijing’s outbreak being linked to mycoplasma, Republican senators are calling on the Biden administration to ban travel from China ‘immediately’ as the outbreak there overwhelms hospitals.
Florida senator Marco Rubio said President Joe Biden ‘must take the necessary steps to protect the health of Americans’.
He added: ‘That means we should immediately restrict travel between the United States and China until we know more about the dangers posed by this new illness.’
But the CDC and World Health Organization say they’ve seen data from China that has been corroborated in other countries – showing the culprit is not a new virus.
The CDC said it is seeing ‘nothing unusual’ in figures for pneumonia hospitalizations at this time of year.
The agency is keeping close tabs on the data to look for any spikes in the states.