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WHO warns against outbreak of respiratory infections among children in northern China

1 December 2023 23:45 (UTC+04:00)
WHO warns against outbreak of respiratory infections among children in northern China

Since mid-October 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been tracking data from China's surveillance systems that show a rise in respiratory infections among children in northern China, Azernews reports, citing WHO.

Description of the Situation

During a press conference on 13 November 2023, China's National Health Commission reported an increase in respiratory infections across the country, predominantly among children. Chinese authorities attributed this increase to the lifting of restrictions due to COVID-19 and the onset of the cold season, as well as the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Mycoplasma pneumoniae and RSV are known to affect children more often than adults.

On the twenty-second of November 2023, WHO identified media and ProMED reports of pockets of undiagnosed pneumonia in children's hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other localities in China. WHO, through the International Health Regulations mechanism, formally requested additional epidemiological and clinical information, as well as laboratory results on the cases and recent trends in the circulation of respiratory pathogens.

The main objective was to determine whether the "outbreaks of undiagnosed pneumonia" described in media reports had occurred in Beijing and Liaoning and, if so, whether they were isolated outbreaks or the result of a known generalised increase in respiratory infections in the population. WHO also sought additional information through clinical networks.

On 23 November, WHO held a remote meeting with Chinese health authorities from the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Beijing Children's Hospital, facilitated by the National Health Commission and the National Administration for Disease Prevention and Control, which provided requested data showing an increase in outpatient consultations and hospital admissions in children due to pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae (since May) and RSV, an adenovirus Some of these rises in incidence occurred earlier than usual, but they are not unexpected given the lifting of restrictions due to COVID-19; a similar situation has been observed in other countries. Health authorities in China have not reported changes in the clinical manifestations of the disease.

Chinese authorities noted that no unusual or new pathogens or unusual clinical manifestations had been identified, including in Beijing and Liaoning, other than the above-mentioned generalised increase in respiratory infections caused by several known pathogens. They also said that the rise in respiratory infections had not caused patient numbers to exceed hospital capacity.

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