The World Health Organisation has requested information from China over a respiratory disease outbreak and perhaps misdiagnosed pneumonia following the dissemination of images of children-filled hospitals by the local media.
According to WHO, there has been a rise in “influenza-like illnesses” in northern China since mid-October when compared to the same period in the previous three years.
The WHO added in a statement on Wednesday that there have also been reports of clusters of misdiagnosed paediatric pneumonia cases in the north of the nation, however it is unclear if these are connected to the respiratory infections.
The questions posed by the World Health Organisation originate from certain Chinese cities, such as Xian in the northwest of the nation, where footage of packed hospitals full of parents and kids waiting to be seen was broadcast.
Additionally, some social media users have shared pictures of kids in hospitals getting IV drips while they are doing their homework.
Based on media accounts, there appears to be “a widespread outbreak of an undiagnosed respiratory illness in several areas in China,” as stated in the Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.
The agency stated that while it is unclear when exactly the outbreak began—it would be rare for so many kids to get sick so quickly—reports of the illness mostly affecting kids point to “some exposure at the schools.”
Before dumping the Covid zero policy in December, China followed it for almost two years, during which time it imposed stringent lockdowns and quarantines, conducted widespread testing, and required meticulous contact tracing.
Chinese authorities attributed the increase in illnesses to an autumn cold snap, the release of known pathogens such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and mycoplasma pneumonia, as well as the lifting of these strict restrictions that stopped the spread of Covid and other illnesses.
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Beijing, the capital of China, “entered a high incidence season of respiratory infectious diseases” as a result of the country’s record low temperatures, Wang Quanyi, the Beijing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director and chief epidemiological expert, told state media on Wednesday.
He continued, saying that the city “is currently showing a trend of multiple pathogens coexisting.”
The World Health Organisation requested further data from China regarding the outbreaks that have been recorded, together with the laboratory findings of the children who were impacted.
The group also requested details regarding the extent to which the epidemics had strained the Chinese healthcare system.
The inquiries were referred to as a “routine” review by the WHO’s China office on Thursday. China is required by World Health Organisation regulations to reply within a day.
The World Health Organisation advised locals to adopt preventive actions in the interim, such as getting vaccinated, using masks, regularly washing their hands, avoiding sick people, and remaining at home when sick.