In the process of recovering from the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic, China is now grappling with a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has affected schools nationwide. According to Reuters, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has officially requested China to provide detailed information about the sudden increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children. The WHO has not disclosed any information on how China has responded to the request for additional information.
On November 21, 2023, the media and public disease surveillance system ProMED reported clusters of diagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. Taiwanese news agencies reported that hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning have been struggling with an influx of children sick with pneumonia Beijing is also battling a relentless cold spell.
State media reports predict that temperatures will nose dive, plunging far below the mercury. Hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning are on the brink of collapse due to an overwhelming surge of sick children, reports claim. With the outbreak surging, school closures are also a possibility.
The WHO has expressed uncertainty about the potential connection between the outbreak in northern China and the widespread rise in respiratory infections previously acknowledged by China’s authorities. It has requested additional, comprehensive information from Beijing regarding the current situation.
Epicenters of the Outbreak
The epicentres of the outbreaks are the Beijing and Liaoning provinces. The severity of the situation has reached such an extent that classes for school students have been cancelled, as both students and teachers have taken ill. Since Beijing and Liaoning are 800km apart, the mysterious pneumonia is not being seen as a local outbreak.
While not much is known about the outbreak, people cited by the Taiwanese said that the sick children do not have any symptoms or coughs, But they do have high temperature and pulmonary nodules. The lobby of Dalian Children’s Hospital is full of sick children receiving intravenous drips. There are large queues outside hospitals.
Last week, Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission reported an increase in the number of respiratory diseases in the country, the WHO noted in a statement. No deaths have been reported so far.
According to the WHO, the Chinese authorities attributed the increase to the lifting of COVID-19 Curbs and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia (a common bacterial infection that typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus and the virus that causes COVID-19.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has requested that China furnish more detailed data while issuing a public health advisory urging individuals to reduce their exposure risk.
WHO recommended that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, which include recommended vacation, keeping distance from people who are ill, staying home if ill, getting tested and medical care as and when needed, coupled with frequent hand washing.