“Recent surges in respiratory illnesses in northern China have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for comprehensive data and action. This rise in influenza-like illnesses and pneumonia clusters among children has raised concerns, leading to an urgent request for information from Chinese health authorities.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called upon China to provide more comprehensive data concerning the recent surge in respiratory illnesses observed in the northern part of the country. This request for information follows a notable increase in cases resembling influenza-like illness since mid-October, contrasting with the same period in the previous three years, as reported by the WHO.
In an official statement released on Wednesday, the WHO formally asked China to furnish detailed information regarding the uptick in respiratory diseases and clusters of pneumonia affecting children. China’s National Health Commission attributed the rise in respiratory ailments to the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions and the circulation of familiar pathogens such as influenza and common bacterial infections that typically impact children, like mycoplasma pneumonia.
According to reports from state media, Beijing, situated in northern China, is currently experiencing a cold snap, with temperatures expected to plummet significantly by Friday. Wang Quanyi, deputy director and chief epidemiological expert at the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighted that the city has entered a period with a high incidence of respiratory infectious diseases, with multiple pathogens concurrently in circulation.
At Beijing’s Capital Institute of Pediatrics’ Children’s Hospital, there was a noticeable influx of parents and children seeking medical attention, particularly for cases related to mycoplasma pneumonia. While some parents expressed worries about the escalating cases, others attributed it to the usual seasonal increase in respiratory illnesses during winter.
Recent reports emerged on November 21 of unexplained clusters of pneumonia among children in northern China, according to the ProMED media and public disease surveillance system. The WHO indicated uncertainty about the correlation between ProMED’s report and the authorities’ press conference, seeking further clarification.
The WHO stressed its need for additional information on the circulation of known pathogens, the strain on the health system due to overcrowding, and recent trends related to diseases like influenza, Covid-19, and others impacting infants.
While waiting for China’s response to its data request, the WHO emphasized preventive measures such as vaccination, maintaining distance from sick individuals, and wearing masks.
There was no immediate response from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to AFP’s request for comment. This lack of transparency has been an ongoing concern, with the WHO previously expressing dissatisfaction with China’s reluctance to share crucial information during the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO continues to stress the significance of investigating the origins of Covid-19 for future pandemic preparedness.