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China reports an increase in respiratory illnesses due to flu and other identified pathogens.
Science & Health

China reports an increase in respiratory illnesses due to flu and other identified pathogens.

The Chinese health ministry stated on Sunday that the recent increase in respiratory illnesses in China, which has caught the attention of the World Health Organization, is not due to a new virus, but rather to the flu and other common pathogens.

According to a spokesperson from the National Health Commission, the recent outbreaks of respiratory infections are due to a combination of well-known viruses like influenza, rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, and bacteria like mycoplasma pneumoniae. This bacteria is often responsible for respiratory tract infections.

The government urged local officials to establish additional fever clinics and encourage immunizations for children and older individuals, as the nation faces a surge of respiratory illnesses during its first winter without COVID-19 restrictions.

Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the ministry, stated that steps should be taken to enhance the availability of clinics and treatment spaces, prolong service hours, and boost the availability of medications.

He recommended that individuals wear masks and urged local officials to prioritize containing the spread of diseases in densely populated areas like schools and nursing homes.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization formally asked China to share information regarding a possible increase in respiratory illnesses and cases of pneumonia in children. This information was reported by various media outlets and a worldwide infectious disease monitoring organization.

The emergence of new flu strains or other viruses capable of triggering pandemics typically starts with undiagnosed clusters of respiratory illness. Both SARS and COVID-19 were first reported as unusual types of pneumonia.

The Chinese government attributed the rise in respiratory illnesses to the lifting of lockdown measures for COVID-19 earlier this month. Similarly, other nations experienced a surge in respiratory diseases like RSV after easing pandemic restrictions.

The World Health Organization reported that Chinese health authorities shared the requested data during a virtual meeting on Thursday. The data revealed a rise in hospitalizations of children for various illnesses such as bacterial infections, RSV, influenza, and common cold viruses since October.

According to the World Health Organization, Chinese authorities stated that the increase in patients did not overwhelm the country’s hospitals.

The U.N. health agency rarely makes public requests for more specific information from countries, as these types of requests are usually handled internally. The WHO stated that it utilized an international legal mechanism to ask China for additional data.

Based on information from sources within China, certain hospitals in the northern region, such as those in Beijing, have been overwhelmed by the recent outbreaks. Health officials have advised parents to bring children with milder symptoms to clinics or other medical facilities.

The World Health Organization stated that there is insufficient information currently available to accurately evaluate the risk of the reported cases of respiratory illness in children.

Both the Chinese government and the World Health Organization (WHO) have faced criticism for not being transparent in their initial disclosures about the COVID-19 outbreak that began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.