Ladies and gentlemen.
The “walking pneumonia”
Walking or atypical pneumonias are pneumonias that are caused by less common micro-organisms, and most of them are caused by Mycoplasma, an extremely tiny microscopic organism related to bacteria.
The pneumonia is called “walking pneumonia” because in most cases the disease is not severe enough to confine the patient to bed or to warrant hospitalization.
Mycoplasma pneumonia affects primarily adults below 40 years of age and children.
Mycoplasma infections occur year round but are more common in late summer and fall.
Typical symptoms may include fever, chills, excessive sweating, sore throat, a cough that may or may not be productive, malaise and occasional chest pain.Symptoms may persist for a few days to more than a month.
Occasionally, the Mycoplasma pneumonia may be associated with a painful ear infection, anemia or skin rashes. The disease is usually relatively mild, but occasionally individual symptoms may be quite distressing with the patients feeling generally much worse than they look.
Diagnostic tests may reveal increased concentrations of certain immune substances (cold agglutininns) but a definite diagnosis of Mycoplasma infection, requires more complicated serological tests which are not usually done unless they are part of a research protocol or for diagnostic purposes of suspected epidemics.
The outlook for most treated patients is excellent as the infection responds well to Erythromycin and Tetracyclines. (Tetracyclines are usually not recommended in patients under 7 years of age, because it may cause yellowing of the permanent teeth.) An untreated Mycoplasma pneumonia, in most cases will resolve spontaneously, but may easily drag on over a couple of months or more.
Immunity after mycoplasma infections does occur but it is not life long and its exact duration is unknown. Recurrent infections are usually much milder than the original episode.