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Surge in Respiratory Illnesses in China: No New Pathogens Detected, Says WHO

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Surge in Respiratory Illnesses in China: No New Pathogens Detected, Says WHO

Hospitals across China are currently grappling with a significant spike in respiratory illnesses among children, primarily in Beijing and northern regions. This sudden surge has stirred international concerns. However, health experts have stated that the rise does not match the scale of the initial COVID-19 outbreak and is not attributed to any new or unusual disease. Instead, the upsurge is an anticipated occurrence with the arrival of the winter season and the nation's first winter without stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

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(Read Also: China’s First Consumption-Related REITs Get Regulatory Approval)

Rise Attributed to Known Pathogens, Not New Viruses

Chinese authorities have promptly provided data to the World Health Organization (WHO), showing that the sick children are affected by known pathogens common worldwide. The increased vulnerability among children may be due to the extensive use of masks and lockdowns during the pandemic, which shielded them from exposure to ordinary bugs. The Chinese Ministry of Health has linked the rise in cases to a combination of these familiar pathogens and not to any new viruses.

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WHO's Request for More Information

The issue gained global prominence when the WHO requested more information from China following a report on undiagnosed pneumonia clusters in children by the Emerging Diseases Monitoring Program. Several hospitals, including those in Beijing, Tianjin, and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, have reported extremely high numbers of patient admissions, far exceeding their capacities. The WHO called on Beijing to share its data on the outbreak, as reports emerged of mass quarantines, lockdowns, and compulsory testing.

(Read Also: China Mobilizes Households in Efforts to Cut Carbon Emissions)

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China's Response to the Surge

Responding to the situation, China's health ministry confirmed that the recent clusters of respiratory infections are caused by common viruses such as the influenza virus, rhinoviruses, the respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, and bacteria such as mycoplasma pneumoniae. To manage the surge, efforts are being ramped up to expand relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours, and increase the supply of medicines. Hospitals, including Beijing Children's Hospital, are warning of long waits and urging parents to take their children with mild symptoms to grassroots medical and health institutions or general hospitals for pediatric care.

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