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  • Ask an Expert: Kids and Pneumonia

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    General Q&A:
    Pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis

    More from Lifespan:
    Kids and colds
    When to keep kids home from school
    Kids and germs: Teaching good hygiene

    More information:
    U.S. Centers for Disease Control

    The recent cases of pneumonia and meningitis in Rhode Island are thought to be caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria. Penelope Dennehy, MD, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Hasbro Children's Hospital, addresses additional questions parents may have about the illness.

    • What precautions can my child take in school to avoid getting sick? Can you list these in order of importance?
      1. Handwashing (most important)
      2. Practicing cough etiquette: coughing into your sleeve or upper arm
      3. Staying home from work and/or school if ill
    • Should kids be immunized for meningitis?
      Some of the routine immunizations that children currently receive protect them from meningitis. The Hemophilus influenza type b or HIB vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar) protect infants and young children from meningitis caused by these organisms. Older children and teens should receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (Menactra) to protect them from meningitis caused by this organism.
    • How long does it take for the Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria to die on a surface? What is the best way to disinfect it?
      The organism does not survive very long outside of the human body therefore special disinfection is not required.
    • My family celebrated the holidays with a family whose child attended a school where children have been sick. Should we be worried?
      If the child was well it is highly unlikely you would acquire an infection. Mycoplasma pneumoniae is acquired during prolonged, close contact such as living in a household together. If you spent a few hours together over the holidays it is unlikely that transmission would occur.

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