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The WHO has urged China to provide more details about the surge in undiagnosed pneumonia cases, escalating since October.
As China underwent its first winter without stringent COVID-19 measures in three years, respiratory illnesses are spreading across the nation.
The sudden increase has prompted the WHO to press China for additional information and enhanced response measures. While some experts attribute it to a common aftereffect of lifting lockdowns, others draw parallels with the early pandemic days due to unanswered questions.
Current Situation: What’s known about China’s pneumonia outbreak?
On November 13, China’s National Health Commission reported a rise in respiratory diseases.
Clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China were reported on Sunday by ProMED, a global surveillance system. Infections have increased in Beijing and Liaoning, 800km apart.
The WHO has asked China for more information, and hospitals in Beijing report a surge in patients, especially children. Schools are experiencing high absenteeism.
Health officials fear winter will worsen the spread, with the national weather authority warning of colder temperatures.
Why is pneumonia spreading in China?
China’s National Health Commission links the rise to lifted COVID-19 restrictions. Experts suggest a possible “immunity debt” after a prolonged lockdown.
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is identified as a probable source, listed alongside other pathogens. The WHO seeks more information on these microorganisms.
The outbreak could be due to a newly mutated pathogen or an existing one with modified characteristics, raising global concern.
What to Expect?
Chinese authorities emphasize the need for increased disease surveillance and stronger health systems. The WHO and China’s medical staff advise reinforcing COVID-19 practices.
In Liaoning Province, people seek traditional Chinese medicine, while medical staff express concerns about infections in children and vulnerable populations.
Experts stress the importance of more definitive information on the illnesses.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is lung air sac inflammation due to bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
Common in young children and older adults, it can be deadly, with higher death rates in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Symptoms include chest pain, coughing, fever, and fatigue. Treatable with antibiotics, recovery takes a week to a month or more.