What is mycoplasma pneumonia?
Mycoplasma pneumonia is often referred to as 'cold pneumonia'. It is caused by the micro-organism called mycoplasma pneumoniae. Approximately 10% of patients with this condition will go on to develop full-blown pneumonia.
What causes it?
A mycoplasma pneumonia is caused by coming into close contact with the secretions from the respiratory passages of an infected person. These secretions are usually in the form of invisible droplets in the air, and the disease is usually transmitted among family members, or in other places where people come into close contact with each other, such as in creches, schools and workplaces.
Since people can carry the mycoplasma organism without feeling ill, it is very easy to pass the infection on. It is most common in the age ranges of five to 20, although it is usually more dangerous in middle age and among older people.
What are the symptoms?
An epidemic of mycoplasma pneumonia usually occurs every few years, and the symptoms are usually widely publicised in the media. Many of the symptoms are similar to influenza, making it more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. Some, or all, of the following symptoms may be present:
- A dry cough, which may last for several weeks.
- Sore throat
- Pains in the muscles and joints
- Headaches, which are often severe.
- A temperature which is slightly above normal.
What is the treatment?
If there is an epidemic of mycoplasma infections in your area, it is advisable to contact your local GP if you suspect you might be infected, because of the risk of developing pneumonia. Young children and elderly people are especially at risk.
The doctor will make a diagnosis on the basis of a lung examination, and he may also have to take blood samples and check for mycoplasma antibodies. It may be necessary to have a lung x-ray to make an accurate diagnosis.
If pneumonia is present, it can be treated with antibiotics, and perhaps hospitalisation if the patient is very young or elderly. Typical mycoplasma infections will usually clear up within a week or two, and without medication.
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