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China denies new virus role in children’s pneumonia outbreak

  • China faces pneumonia epidemic
  • WHO demands data transparency
  • Global concern, expert insights

China has maintained that the mysterious pneumonia epidemic ravaging its educational institutions is not the product of an entirely new virus.

According to data obtained by the World Health Organization (WHO) from China, the increase in respiratory ailments following the country’s brutal lockdowns may have been caused by the resurgence of common infections.

According to Chinese health officials, the outbreak, which is ‘overwhelming’ some institutions and threatening to close schools, is a combination of infections caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, RSV, adenovirus, and influenza.

However, the WHO is demanding China’s complete cooperation, given that it concealed the 2003 SARS outbreak and neglected to notify the international community about COVID-19 for months, thereby delaying the responses of other nations.

Outbreak Details and Local Media Reports

Earlier in the week, local media reported that hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning, located 500 miles northeast, were “overwhelmed with sick children” exhibiting peculiar symptoms such as pulmonary inflammation, fever, and lack of cough.

The circumstance incited a warning from ProMed, a disease surveillance system that in late 2019 issued a similar alert regarding an unidentified infection in Wuhan that would subsequently be identified as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) formally requested China to provide additional information, laboratory results from reported cases. They also sought data on recent trends in circulating respiratory pathogens, according to the WHO.

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On Thursday, the health agency engaged in a teleconference. They contacted Beijing Children’s Hospital and Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials.

Verification Challenges and Global Comparison

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated, “Chinese authorities advised that no unusual or novel pathogens or unusual clinical presentations have been detected, including in Beijing and Liaoning; only the aforementioned general increase in respiratory illnesses caused by multiple known pathogens has been reported.”

Additionally, they claimed that the increase in respiratory illnesses has not caused hospital patient burdens to surpass their capacity.

The Taiwanese news outlet FTV News, among other local media outlets, reported that hospitals were ‘overwhelmed.’

Radio Free Asia reported that as of the beginning of October, the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated. Over 3,500 patients with “respiratory infection” had been admitted to the Beijing Children’s Hospital.

According to a pediatrics department employee at Beijing Friendship Hospital, emergency cases must wait twenty-four hours to be seen.

The Chinese government also informed the WHO that enhanced outpatient and inpatient surveillance had been implemented since mid-October. This surveillance detected Mycoplasma pneumoniae for the first time.

The WHO has not independently verified China’s assertions.
Walking pneumonia, which primarily impacts young children, is characterized by a prolonged cough, fatigue, and hoarse throat that may persist for several months. This condition is called “walking pneumonia” because symptoms are typically mild enough to permit patients to continue strolling.

In severe instances, the condition may progress to pneumonia.

Reportedly, its prevalence has increased in China as it enters its inaugural winter without stringent COVID-19 confinement measures.

Measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including lockdowns, face coverings, and social isolation. These measures disrupted the spread of common seasonal viruses globally.

The United States and the United Kingdom experienced increases in influenza and RSV cases following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

Expert Opinions and Insights

Consequently, population-wide immunity to these infections decreased, rendering individuals more susceptible to infestations once preventative measures were withdrawn.

China reported to the World Health Organization that pediatric hospital admissions for Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia, RSV, adenovirus, and influenza virus had increased since May and October.

Professor Francois Balloux, a computational biology expert at University College London, stated that ‘lockdown exit’ surges of infections had previously occurred in the United Kingdom and that China might be witnessing a larger-scale manifestation of this pattern.

“Other nations, including the United Kingdom, witnessed significant outbreaks of pediatric respiratory infections and hospitalizations in the first winter following the removal of pandemic restrictions,” he explained.

It was expected because to China’s longer and harsher lockdown than most other nations. The ‘lockdown exit’ surges in China would be substantial.

China has faced prior censure for its tendency to minimize the significance of the initial SARS epidemic in 2003. It also downplayed the COVID pandemic that emerged in late 2019, both of which involved novel viruses that caused pneumonia.

WHO China, a UN-supported regional health body, has tried to reduce the WHO information request. They did so by referring to it as a “routine” process.

The outbreak was “gain control” of in a “transparent” manner, according to British infectious disease experts.

The WHO stated that it is “in close contact with Chinese national authorities” and is “vigilantly monitoring the situation.”

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