The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. The seat on the small van was too small
The Kids Are Not Okay. Stop Making Them Sick.
There's more danger to the pneumonia outbreaks than we're being told.
A dangerous strain of pneumonia has started spreading around the world, and it's gearing up to become a major public health emergency.
In several countries, it's sending children to the hospital in alarming numbers. As more major cities report outbreaks, we hear the same message: "Don't panic. It's mild." The reporting we've seen so far misses or intentionally ignores vital points about this form of pneumonia.
Children eight and under face the greatest risk.
It's resistant to antibiotics.
Symptoms take 1-4 weeks to appear, and they look like any other infection at first (sore throat, fatigue, fever, headache, cough). That means it could be spreading in cities now and we wouldn't know it for a month. Toss in large amounts of holiday travel, and you've got a crisis.
Politicians and media continue to normalize the spread of more and more serious illnesses since deciding to open schools in 2021, before most children could get vaccinated against Covid and often without upgrading air quality. Now they've added mycoplasma pneumonia to the growing list of threats parents shouldn't "panic" about.
Once again, they're wrong.
A new piece in Foreign Policy highlights something that China and every other government and health authority are choosing to downplay. As they state, mycoplasma pneumonia "has mutated to a strain resistant to macrolides, the only class of antibiotics that are safe for children less than eight years of age." Even worse, "China has barely mentioned this fact." Meanwhile, Beijing's CDC has reported macrolide resistance above 90 percent for years now. "This means there's no treatment for MPP in children under the age of eight."
Research has long shown that mycoplasma pneumonia has been growing resistant to macrolide antibiotics, especially in China.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Thoracic Disease found that between 70 and 80 percent of mycoplasma pneumonia cases showed resistance to both erythromycin and azithromycin. Infection with these resistant forms "will lead to a longer duration of therapy, persistent cough and increased time to resolution of fever compared with treatment-susceptible infection."
In 2022, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an extensive review and meta-analysis on macrolide-resistant mycoplasma pneumonia, looking at 150 articles. The authors concluded that there's "a considerable increase in global trends," from 18 percent of cases in 2000 to 76 percent of cases in 2019. Furthermore, they found that infections were "higher in samples from children than those from adults."
So, children are facing the biggest risk.
Because mycoplasma pneumonia lacks a cell wall, it's already resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin. That means even if it's "mild," it can last longer and it's harder to treat. Research has also shown that infection with mycoplasma pneumonia makes patients more vulnerable to viral infections like Covid. So, yes, it's alarming to see a pathogen considered mild suddenly resulting in surges of pediatric hospitalizations. It's especially alarming to see that the very pneumonia spreading right now has spent the last 20 years building up resistance to antibiotics.
Other potential treatments exist, but that misses the point. We shouldn't want children to wind up in the hospital. And we shouldn't want surges of infections overflowing hospitals and creating shortages. We have tools to keep them safe, and we should be using those first.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked for details, but they're not pressuring China to reveal any information on antibiotic resistance. As Foreign Policy explains, "If WHO did ask, China isn't telling, and WHO isn't talking." The evidence so far indicates that, yes, we have a more serious form of mycoplasma pneumonia spreading quickly.
It gets worse.
Covid infection and mycoplasma pneumonia make a bad combination. We've known since 2020, when the Journal of Medical Virology published a study showing that mortality rates were "significantly higher," concluding that "patients with coinfection (Covid-19 and mycoplasma) have higher mortality compared with patients with just Covid-19 disease." Since then, other studies have confirmed the danger. A 2022 study in Cureus found that "the rates of mortality, ventilatory support, and length of hospital stay were significantly worse in patients with a co-infection of SARS-CoV-2 and M. pneumoniae."
Over the last year, dozens of studies have explained that Covid disrupts and damages your immune system, and that this damage extends to children. A study in BMC Medicine found that even a mild case of Covid can disrupt your immune system for months. Another study in Cell found that the disruption can last for at least a year, maybe longer. Even back in January of 2023, Wesley Ely unpacked a major study in Nature. He declared, "We're immunocompromised... my spidey senses tell me to stay as protected as possible." Not only does Covid attack your white blood cells, it reprograms them to cause blood clots.
Last winter, Covid caused a surge of secondary infections in children. It left pediatric hospitals overflowing and parents scrambling for medicine, only to find empty shelves. It exacerbated an existing drug shortage.
A study in Family Medicine and Community Health found that Covid infections made children five and younger much more vulnerable to respiratory infections like RSV. As they conclude, "COVID-19 contributed to the 2022 surge of RSV cases in young children through the large buildup of COVID-19-infected children and the potential long-term adverse effects of COVID-19 on the immune and respiratory system." In October, the CDC finally released a report describing the last flu season as "high severity compared with thresholds based on previous seasons' data." Covid played a major role in that.
The drug manufacturer Merck now lists Covid as the third most common cause of lymphocytopenia (a shortage of T cells), right behind HIV infection.
So, that's pretty conclusive.
Let's stop messing around. We have a highly contagious strain of mycoplasma pneumonia that's resistant to antibiotics infecting children all over the world, after they've already spent the last two years getting sick over and over again with Covid, RSV, flu, colds, and god knows what else. If they catch this pneumonia, it will make them more vulnerable to other infections like Covid, which in turn make them more vulnerable to infections like RSV. In other words, it's an endless merry-go-round of sickness.
That's a public health emergency.
What should we do?
At this point, there's no sense in continuing to fixate on China. After the busiest air travel day in U.S. history, on top of reported outbreaks across several countries, it's safe to assume this cat has left the bag.
There's only one reason why media outlets have continued to try and make this a China problem, and that's propaganda. It distracts the public from the core issue, that we need to be moving fast.
Schools that upgraded their air quality with ventilation and filtration have a major advantage right now. It would be smart to bring back masks, since we're facing an urgent threat. Studies show they cut transmission dramatically, especially higher quality ones. Governments should already be sending boxes of these to schools, and teachers should be handing them out.
Of course, that's not happening.
Most schools missed a major opportunity to upgrade their air quality over the last four years. Administrators sat on those funds, and they got clawed back. Our government isn't sending out masks to anyone, let alone schools. So here we are, largely unprepared, after spending the last four years talking about how to be better prepared next time.
Well, it's next time.
I'll tell you what my family is doing. We've already spoken with our child's teacher. She's in a small pod with 3-4 other kids. They already spend 90 percent of their time outside. We've decided that if the weather ever threatens outside time, we're going to come pick her up. She's not going to spend more than a few minutes inside with other kids. For those few minutes, she'll be masked and always near at least one big air purifier, if not two. We're going to keep an eye on outbreaks of pneumonia. If things get out of hand, we're prepared to homeschool at least for the short term. We're still deciding on the long term.
We know that parents are tired of watching their children get sick over and over with worse outcomes each time. Look at the discussion threads. We know it's only going to get worse if we keep letting it happen.
Schools don't have many options now. If they don't have clean air, they have to scramble to get air purifiers and CR boxes into their classrooms now, and they need to employ masks whenever and however they can. If sickness starts to spread, they should go remote. The alternative is to let a world of children with disrupted, damaged immune systems catch a strain of pneumonia that has mutated to resist antibiotics.
Children don't need to get sick all the time to build up their immune systems. That's turning into the most dangerous lie ever told.
Do we hate our children so much that we want them to spend every month battling or recovering from some infection? Are we going to continue forcing them to attend school while sick, only for them to catch yet another infection that makes them tired and miserable?
If so, that's a terrible plan.
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