What’s Going Around | What to know about so-called white lung syndrome

WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — An outbreak of pediatric pneumonia cases in Ohio and Massachusetts has some parents in the DMV wondering if they should be alarmed about a respiratory infection spreading.

It’s been coined “white lung syndrome.” According to reports, the term “white lung” comes from pneumonia showing up on X-rays as a whitening of the lung.

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White lung syndrome is not a medical term, said Dr. John Sherner, a pulmonologist and Chair of Medicine at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“You won’t find it in any of the textbooks or any of the references. It’s a term that I think is being used to describe the increased incidence of pneumonia, particularly in areas like Ohio and in some overseas locations as well,” he said.

Recent media reports have drawn comparisons between the spike in cases in Ohio and China, but the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently testified on Capitol Hill that the agency has no reason to believe an unknown virus is circulating.

Dr. Sherner reiterated that there’s no connection with anything overseas.

“I think a lot of this is just the seasonal variation that we see with infectious diseases this time of year, particularly coming on the heels of the pandemic. People are more fully engaged in doing things,” he said.

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Dr. Sherner said most infectious diseases are spread as the seasons change — when temperatures drop, people spend more time indoors and have closer interactions with others.

“The increase that we’re seeing, it’s really not anything out of the norm at this point,” he commented.

The typical symptoms of pneumonia are cough, shortness of breath, coughing up some phlegm and fever.

Dr. Sherner said most people who have a strong immune system are going to be just fine without any special precautions. But those who may have weaker immune systems may want to consider wearing a mask if they are going to be in a crowded environment.

“But really, it’s no special precautions at this point. Washing your hands always is good advice,” he said.

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