The World Health Organisation is paying more attention to China as a result of the surge in respiratory infection cases and unwell youngsters exhibiting symptoms similar to pneumonia in the country’s hospitals (WHO).
At least 7,000 kids were being admitted to a Beijing children’s hospital every day, significantly beyond the facility’s capacity, the hospital had earlier informed state television CCTV.
At its outpatient and emergency departments, the biggest paediatric hospital in neighbouring Tianjin is said to have seen almost 13,000 youngsters last week.
The province of Liaoning, located roughly 690 kilometres northeast of the capital, is likewise facing a high caseload.
The local government in China has been requested by the health ministry to expand the number of fever clinics.
A spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng, stated on Sunday that “efforts should be made to increase the number of relevant clinics and treatment areas, appropriately extend service hours, and strengthen guarantees of drug supplies.”
“Reducing the flow of people and visits, as well as effectively preventing and controlling epidemics in important crowded places like schools, childcare centres, and nursing homes,”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday issued a formal call for disease data about respiratory ailments and reported clusters of pneumonia in youngsters due to the growing number of cases.
The UN health agency rarely asks nations for more specific information in public; usually, requests of this nature are made internally. This request, according to the agency’s China headquarters, is “routine.”
Later, Chinese health officials declared that no “unusual or novel diseases” had been discovered.
According to them, the country’s first complete cold season since stringent Covid restrictions were loosened in December is connected to the rising infections, which are a mixture of viruses that are already recognised.
According to the authorities, the relaxation of the limits and the spread of known infections like mycoplasma pneumoniae may have led to the rise in incidence of these disorders.
Additionally, the WHO stated on Wednesday that there is currently no proof linking an increase in respiratory infections to clusters of undetected pneumonia.
What has taken place thus far?
The WHO reports that from mid-October, the number of “influenza-like illnesses” in Northern China has increased when compared to the same period in the previous three years.
ProMED, a public illness surveillance system, released a notice on November 21 regarding cases of “undiagnosed pneumonia.” Health experts’ organisation ProMED had issued a warning about the Covid-19 virus earlier in 2019.
ProMED cited a story from FTV News to state that “with the outbreak of pneumonia in China, children’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other places were overwhelmed with sick children, and schools and classes were on the verge of suspension.”
Since so many children would need to get sick so soon, it is really unclear when this pandemic began.
Given that Beijing and Liaoning are about 800 km apart, this story suggests a widespread outbreak of an unidentified respiratory infection in multiple locations of China.
“The report suggests some exposure at the schools but does not state that any adults were affected.”
On Friday, a few parents in Shanghai expressed their lack of concern on the recent outbreak of illness.
“Colds can occur anywhere in the world,” Emily Wu stated in front of a paediatric hospital. “I hope that the pandemic won’t cause people to be biassed, but consider this from a scientific standpoint.”
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What signs and symptoms are present?
Chinese health officials have speculated that mycoplasma pneumoniae, often known as “walking pneumonia,” a common bacterial infection that usually affects youngsters and has been circulating since May, may be connected to the outbreak.
Walking pneumonia can cause weariness, a persistent cough that might last for weeks or months, and a sore throat. This can potentially worsen into pneumonia in severe cases.
Children who are infected “don’t cough and have no symptoms,” according to a Beijing resident who went by the name Wei and spoke to FTV News. They only experience a fever and many of them acquire lung nodules.
To what extent is the illness contagious?
According to Bruce Thompson, dean of the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Health Sciences, very early statistics indicated nothing unusual.
“At this point, there’s no indication that it could be a novel Covid variant,” he declared.
“It’s important to highlight that we can rest assured that the surveillance procedures are operating effectively.”
The World Health Organisation advised Chinese citizens to get immunised, stay home if they are sick, wear masks when needed, and seek medical attention when needed.
The WHO stated, “We recommend that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory infections while we seek this additional information.”
What are the opinions of scientists?
The WHO received advice on Covid from a Dutch virologist named Marion Koopmans, who stated that “more information, particularly diagnostic information” is required.
“We must exercise caution.”
According to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s David Heymann, “the challenge is to discern the outbreaks and determine the cause.”
He made note of the possibility of a history of seasonal respiratory infections.
Public health specialist Brian McCloskey, who also provided advice to the WHO on the pandemic, stated, “I am not going to push the pandemic panic button on the basis of what we know so far, but I will be very keen to see the response to WHO from China and see the WHO’s assessment following that.”
He made reference to the guidelines dictating how nations collaborate with the WHO on possible outbreaks when he added, “What we are seeing is WHO’s International Health Regulations system in action.”
According to virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London, it is improbable that the rising number of infections went unnoticed because modern instruments can detect new coronaviruses or influenza viruses “pretty rapidly.”
“Hopefully we’ll know more soon, but I suspect it may end up being something more commonplace or a combination of things, like Covid, flu, or RSV [respiratory syncytial virus],” he stated.