Mycoplasma infection is a respiratory illness caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a microscopic organism related to bacteria. No accurate estimate of disease occurrence is available for New York City, since Mycoplasma is not a reportable condition.
Anyone can get this disease, but it most often affects older children and young adults.
Mycoplasma infections occur sporadically throughout the year. Widespread community outbreaks may occur at intervals of 4 to 8 years. Mycoplasma infections is most common in the late summer and fall.
Mycoplasma is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough or sneeze. Transmission is thought to require prolonged close contact with an infected person. Spread in families, schools, and institutions occurs slowly. An infected person is usually contagious for less than 20 days.
Typical symptoms include fever, cough, bronchitis, sore throat, headache, and malaise. A common result of Mycoplasma infection is pneumonia (sometimes called "walking pneumonia" because it is usually mild and rarely requires hospitalization). Infections of the middle ear (otitis) also can result. Symptoms may persist for a few days to more than a month.
Symptoms generally begin 6 to 32 days after exposure. The symptoms generally develop slowly, over a period of 2 to 4 days.
Mycoplasma infection is usually diagnosed on the basis of typical symptoms. A nonspecific blood test (cold agglutinins) is helpful in diagnosis, but is not always positive. The use of more specific laboratory tests is often limited to special outbreak investigations.
Immunity after Mycoplasma infection does occur, but is not life-long. Second infections are known to occur, although they may be milder. The duration of immunity is unknown.
Antibiotics such as erythromycin and tetracycline are effective treatments. However, because Mycoplasma infection usually improves on its own, antibiotic treatment for mild symptoms is not essential.
At this time, there are no vaccines for the prevention of Mycoplasma infection and there are no reliably effective measures for control. As with any respiratory disease, all people should cover their face when coughing or sneezing.
For more information on Mycoplasma infection, call 311 .
Last Updated: December 18, 2012