Hospitals in China are being flooded with patients with respiratory illnesses and sick children with pneumonia-like symptoms, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped up surveillance.
China’s Ministry of Health said over the weekend that the rise in cases is linked to duplication of known pathogens, amid fears of new infections as the country enters its first winter since lifting coronavirus restrictions. It was announced that the virus was not caused by a new virus.
We are seeing an increase in cases associated with viruses such as influenza, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, and adenovirus, as well as bacteria such as: mycoplasma pneumonia, the ministry said in a statement.
Maria van Kerkhove, acting director of the WHO’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention division, said the surge in cases was due to children being exposed to pathogens they were shielded from due to two years of coronavirus restrictions. He said that this appears to be the cause.
“This does not represent a new pathogen. This is to be expected. This is something that most countries dealt with a year or two ago,” Ms Van Kerkhof told health news agency STAT.
mycoplasma pneumonia The infections were mainly seen in children aged 5 to 14, said Wang Huaqing, chief immunization program expert at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“China has experienced a much longer and harsher lockdown than essentially any other country on earth, so this wave of ‘unlockdown’ is likely to be quite significant in China as well,” François Ballou of University College London told AFP. It was expected that it could become something.”
China’s Ministry of Health has asked local authorities to increase the number of fever clinics to prevent the spread of the disease and urged people to wear masks.
A Beijing children’s hospital earlier told state media CCTV that at least 7,000 patients were being admitted to the facility each day, far exceeding its capacity.
Last week, the largest pediatric hospital in nearby Tianjin reportedly admitted more than 13,000 children to its outpatient and emergency departments. Liaoning province, about 690 kilometers northeast of the capital, is also facing a high number of infections.
Following the rising number of cases, WHO on Wednesday formally requested disease data on pediatric pneumonia clusters reported as respiratory illnesses.
In response, Chinese health authorities said no “unusual or new disease” had been found. Officials insisted that the country’s hospitals were not overwhelmed due to the high number of patients, contrary to local media reports.
China’s National Health Commission also warned that the spread of some pathogens could end in a major outbreak this winter or next spring.
The international health agency also said Wednesday that the link between clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia and the rise in respiratory infections is currently unknown.
What happened so far?
According to the WHO, northern China has reported an increase in “influenza-like illnesses” since mid-October compared to the same period in the past three years.
On November 21, the public disease surveillance system ProMED issued a notification regarding reports of “undiagnosed pneumonia.”Run by medical professionals, ProMED launched in early 2019 issued an alarm Regarding the virus that causes the new coronavirus infection (Covid-19).
“An outbreak of pneumonia in China has overwhelmed children’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other provinces with sick children, and schools and classes are on the verge of being closed,” ProMed said, citing a report from FTV News. .
“It is not at all clear when this outbreak started, as it is unusual for so many children to be affected so quickly.
“This report suggests that because Beijing and Liaoning province are approximately 800 kilometers apart, there are widespread outbreaks of undiagnosed respiratory diseases in some regions of China.
“The report does not say any adults were affected, suggesting some exposure occurred at the school.”
On Friday, some parents in Shanghai said they were not too worried about the wave of illness.
“Colds occur all over the world,” Emily Wu said outside a children’s hospital. “I hope people are not biased because of the pandemic…but look at this from a scientific perspective.”
What symptoms do you have?
According to Chinese health authorities, the outbreak may be related to: mycoplasma pneumoniaeAlso known as “walking pneumonia,” this is a common bacterial infection that usually affects children and has been prevalent since May.
Symptoms of walking pneumonia include a sore throat, fatigue, and a persistent cough that can last for weeks to months. In severe cases, it can eventually progress to pneumonia.
A Beijing resident identified only as Wei told FTV News that the infected children “don’t cough and have no symptoms.” However, there is a high fever (fever), and many develop lung nodules. ”
Medical data analysis firm Airfinity noted that hospitals in Sichuan province have also reported unusual symptoms.
“The fact that only children are affected suggests that this is most likely a pre-existing pathogen,” Jin Dongyang, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, told Bloomberg.
“If it’s a new pathogen, it would primarily attack adults. Adults seem to be familiar with it.”
However, mycoplasma has previously caused outbreaks in China every two to four years, and the latest positivity rate in Beijing was 40%, about 1.3 times the peak in 2019.
How contagious is this disease?
Bruce Thompson, dean of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Health Sciences, told Reuters very preliminary data suggested there was nothing unusual.
“At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that this is a new variant of the coronavirus,” he said.
“One thing to note is that it gives you peace of mind that the monitoring process is working, which is a very good thing.”
The WHO suggested people in China get vaccinated, isolate if they feel unwell, wear masks if necessary, and seek medical care if necessary.
“While WHO is seeking this additional information, we recommend that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness,” the agency said.
What do scientists say?
Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, who advised the WHO on the coronavirus, said “more information, especially diagnostic information” was needed.
“We have to be careful.”
“The challenge is to identify the outbreak and determine the cause,” said David Heyman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
He pointed out that a seasonal respiratory infection was likely the underlying cause.
“While I am not going to press the panic button on the pandemic based on what we know so far, I am very much looking forward to China’s response to the WHO and its subsequent assessment,” said Brian Macro, a member of the public. Mr. Ski said. A health expert who also advised WHO on the pandemic.
“What we are seeing is the WHO’s International Health Regulations system in action,” he said, explaining how countries are working with the WHO to respond to potential infectious disease outbreaks. He referred to the rules governing cooperation.
Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the rise in infections was unlikely to have gone unnoticed as there were now tools to detect emerging influenza and coronaviruses “fairly quickly”.
“(I suspect) it will end up being something more common, or a combination of coronavirus, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, etc.” [respiratory syncytial virus] – but hopefully we’ll know more soon,” he said.