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China reports no unusual pathogens; WHO questions respiratory outbreaks

  • Pathogens and transparency concerns
  • Surge in respiratory illnesses
  • China responds to WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Thursday that Chinese health authorities have complied with the request for information regarding a surge in respiratory illnesses and reported concentrations of pneumonia in children, without identifying any unusual or novel pathogens.

Clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia among children in northern China were reported by organisations such as the Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED). In response, the WHO requested additional information from China on Wednesday.

Data Analysis and Attributed Causes

China complied with the WHO’s requirement and provided a response within twenty-four hours. The World Health Organisation (WHO) requested laboratory results and epidemiologic and clinical data via the International Health Regulations mechanism.

The data indicates that the rise in cases can be attributed to the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and the spread of known pathogens, such as mycoplasma pneumoniae, a prevalent bacterial infection that primarily impacts young children. Mycoplasma pneumoniae has been in circulation since May.

Since October, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and adenovirus have been in circulation.

Health Recommendations Amidst Rising Cases

As the situation has been closely monitored by authorities, the agency does not advise against travel or commerce.

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No atypical pathogens have been identified in the northeastern province of Liaoning or the capital city of Beijing.

On November 13, Chinese National Health Commission members held a press conference to report a rise in respiratory illnesses.

Concerns have been raised regarding the transparency of reporting by both China and the WHO regarding the initial cases of COVID-19 that surfaced in late 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Furthermore, the United Nations health agency had requested additional data from China regarding the patterns of known pathogen circulation and the strain they place on healthcare systems. The World Health Organisation stated that it maintained communication with clinicians and scientists in China via its established technical partnerships and networks.

WHO China stated that requesting information on the rise in respiratory illnesses was “routine” and that it had received reports of clusters of pneumonia in minors from member states, including China.

After receiving media questions, WHO issued a statement on China to share information. China stated as much in a correspondence.

The ProMED alert was generated in response to a Tuesday report by FTV News in Taiwan.

According to a transcript of last week’s press conference, undiagnosed pneumonia was not discussed. However, one speaker agreed that respiratory illnesses have increased this year compared to three years ago.

Global monitoring for Mycoplasma pneumoniae has been minimal for the past three years, according to the lecturer, and outbreaks occur cyclically every three to seven years.

An “adrenal surge”

China is currently preparing for its first complete winter season since December, when it lifted stringent COVID-19 restrictions. This coincides with an increase in respiratory ailments. As a consequence of easing pandemic precautions, respiratory diseases increased in a number of other nations as well.

HKU epidemiologist Ben Cowling stated, “It is merely a relatively large seasonal surge, possibly due in part to chance and in part to a bit of ‘immunity debt’ from the smaller winter surges of the previous three years.”

The National Health Commission of China failed to provide an immediate response when queried for comment.

In a Thursday interview with Xinhua, it said large institutions had long wait times. Parents were advised on what to do. It made no response to the WHO notification.

The WHO found a spike in influenza-like infections in northern China since mid-October compared to the previous three years.

It was stated that China had established mechanisms to gather data on patterns of disease occurrence. Subsequently, they distribute that information to platforms like the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

Recent days have seen the publication of videos by media outlets in northwesterly cities such as Xian. These videos depict hospitals overflowing with parents and children awaiting medical examinations.

Certain social media users have shared images of children completing assignments in the hospital while receiving intravenous drips.

Although it was expecting more evidence, the WHO encouraged Chinese people to take respiratory illness precautions.

It was stated that preventative measures included vaccination, maintaining a safe distance from sick individuals, remaining at home when ill, undergoing necessary testing and medical care, donning appropriate masks, ensuring adequate ventilation, and washing hands frequently.

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