China's Respiratory Surge: WHO Seeks Clarity, Experts Downplay Global Concerns

China's Respiratory Surge: WHO Seeks Clarity, Experts Downplay Global Concerns

SHANGHAI-  Amid concerns raised by the World Health Organization (WHO) over a surge in respiratory illnesses and clusters of pneumonia in Chinese children, health authorities emphasize that there's no evidence warranting international alarm.

Taiwan, however, has advised vulnerable groups to avoid travel to China. The spike in cases coincides with China's first winter season post the lifting of strict COVID-19 restrictions last December.

The WHO, prompted by a Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) report on undiagnosed pneumonia clusters in children, sought more information. Social media posts depicting children receiving treatment and videos of crowded hospitals have fueled concerns about potential strain on the healthcare system.

The National Health Commission acknowledged an increase in respiratory diseases without specifying details. However, WHO China reassured that the observed numbers are not higher than the peak in the last pre-COVID-19 cold season.

Data suggests the surge is linked to lifted restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens like mycoplasma pneumoniae, influenza, RSV, and adenovirus.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial infection on the rise globally, raises concerns, but WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove notes it's not reportable to WHO, and its incidence seems to be declining. She highlights the need to understand antibiotic resistance, particularly in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Despite the situation, experts, including doctors in China, remain calm, attributing the rise to a predictable pattern seen in other countries after easing pandemic measures.

Cecille Brion of Raffles Medical Group Beijing assures that the cases are typical respiratory infections, treatable and not unusual. Van Kerkhove explains the global increase in respiratory infections, especially among school-aged children, entering winter in the northern hemisphere.

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