December 6, 2023
JAKARTA – The Jakarta Health Agency has reported an unspecified number of suspected Mycoplasma pneumoniae cases among children, only days after the Health Ministry called for increased surveillance against the bacterium that is thought to be behind a recent pneumonia outbreak in northern China.
The agency’s epidemiological surveillance and immunization head Ngabila Salama said on Sunday that several children had been diagnosed with M. pneumoniae infection after their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the bacterium returned positive results.
M. pneumoniae typically affects younger children, and symptoms include coughing and sore throat. The illness is usually mild, and doctors sometimes call it “walking pneumonia” for this reason.
Ngabila declined to reveal how many children had been infected, only saying that health authorities were running more tests to determine how many cases were linked specifically to M. pneumoniae. This was because it was common for children to be infected concurrently with other viruses that caused pneumonia-like symptoms, such as influenza viruses, adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“The main symptom is shortness of breath. [But infected children] might require extended hospitalization if their condition is serious,” Ngabila said, as quoted by Kompas.id.
The Health Ministry declined to confirm the agency’s findings on Monday, when The Jakarta Post asked for it to comment on the matter, citing an established reporting system.
“The [Jakarta] Health Agency should have reported to the ministry first. We already have a system in place, so there is no need for me to confirm with the Health Agency,” the ministry’s disease control and prevention director general Maxi Rein Rondonuwu told the Post.
The Jakarta agency’s report on suspected cases follows a Health Ministry circular released in late November that urges health workers to closely monitor respiratory infections and regularly report relevant data.
The circular also calls for increased surveillance at border checkpoints and instructs border health authorities to pay closer attention to travelers, animals and goods arriving from China.
This is because M. pneumoniae is believed to be behind a spike in cases of an “influenza-like illness” in northern China since mid-October.
China said the spike was a result of lifting COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens, such as the influenza virus, SARS-CoV-2 and RSV in addition to M. pneumoniae.
The World Health Organization has since formally requested Beijing to provide additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from the reported cases and data about recent trends in respiratory pathogens circulating in the country.
Stay calm, but vigilant
The Health Ministry has urged calm among the Indonesian public while calling for increased vigilance and preventive measures, including inoculation against respiratory illnesses as well as maintaining a clean and healthy lifestyle.
The ministry said it was unlikely Mycoplasma pneumonia could lead to another global pandemic because the bacterium was not a new pathogen, with infections occurring endemically and in cyclically in several parts of the world.
Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) chair Piprim Basarah Yanuarso was meanwhile quoted by Kompas.com as saying on Saturday that health authorities needed to improve its surveillance of respiratory infections, particularly in children.
The ministry’s communicable disease control and prevention director Imran Pambudi told a press briefing in late November that the country had seen an uptick in pneumonia and upper respiratory infections this year compared to 2022, though he did not say whether M. pneumoniae had contributed to the increase.
Instead, he attributed the rise in detected cases to the ministry’s increased monitoring of respiratory diseases and to an increase in people visiting health facilities after staying away during the COVID-19 pandemic.