WHO Asks China for ‘Detailed Information’ About Spike in Child Respiratory Illnesses
Shoppers wear masks in Guangzhou, China.

Unusual outbreaks of respiratory illness and pneumonia in Chinese children have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to ask the country for detailed information. 

Children’s hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning Province, some 800km apart, are “overwhelmed with sick children, and schools and classes were on the verge of suspension”,  according to local Chinese media, as reported by ProMed International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Beijing Children’s Hospital was overcrowded with parents and children with pneumonia, according to ProMed.

 “Many, many are hospitalized. They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature (fever) and many develop pulmonary nodules,” according to a resident quoted in the report.

The lobby of Dalian Children’s Hospital in Liaoning Province is full of sick children receiving intravenous drips, according to ProMed.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Shandong Province in north-eastern China have advised people to wear masks and get influenza vaccinations, according to Nikkei Asia.

At a press conference on 13 November 2023, the Chinese National Health Commission reported an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases in China at a media briefing on 13 November, according to the WHO.

They attributed this to “the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection which typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)”.

On Wednesday, the WHO “requested additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism”, said the WHO in a statement.  


“We have also requested further information about recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV and mycoplasma pneumoniae, and the current burden on health care systems. WHO is also in contact with clinicians and scientists through our existing technical partnerships and networks in China.”

The WHO also notes that since October, northern China has reported an increase in influenza-like illness compared to the same period in the previous three years. 

“While WHO seeks this additional information, we recommend that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, which include recommended vaccination; keeping distance from people who are ill; staying home when ill; getting tested and medical care as needed; wearing masks as appropriate; ensuring good ventilation; and regular hand-washing,” said the WHO.

The first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan in central China in December 2019, and by March 2020, the WHO declared a pandemic. That was caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which originated in bats.

Image Credits: China News Service/中国新闻网, Flickr: ZhiZhou Deng.

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