WHO Speaks Out On Clusters Of Undiagnosed Pneumonia Reported In North China

WHO has advised people to wear masks, wash their hands and keep spaces ventilated.
Passengers wearing masks in Beijing, China
Passengers wearing masks in Beijing, China
Future Publishing via Getty Images

The World Health Organisation has called for more information from China after the country revealed clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia has been detected in children and there had been a general increase in respiratory illnesses.

Reuters reported that WHO’s China office has called this just a “routine” check.

Chinese authorities blame the increase on the lifting of Covid restrictions, and the circulation of known pathogens like Covid, flu, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and mycoplasma pneumoniae (which usually affects younger children).

This is China’s first full winter season since it lifted Covid restrictions at the start of the year. Other countries also experienced an uptick in respiratory diseases the first time they eased pandemic measures.

But Chinese officials are also calling for enhanced disease surveillance and strengthening the health system, and WHO has advised a return to some of the measures introduced during the Covid pandemic for people in China.

Late on Wednesday, WHO revealed it had requested lab results from the children affected, and data about the the circulation of known pathogens.

In an eerie repetition of the Covid outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, WHO also said: “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.”

The move came a day after media and ProMED first reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in northern China had been detected in children.

Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission first revealed there had been an uptick in the number of respiratory diseases at a press conference on November 13.

Northern China has seen an increase in flu-like illnesses since mid-October, compared to the same period over the last three years, according to WHO.

It’s not yet clear if the general increase of respiratory diseases and undiagnosed pneumonia in children is related.

According to Reuters, the transcript from November 13′s press conference did not mention the cases of undiagnosed pneumonia.

The officials did tell the media that global monitoring for mycoplasma pneumoniae had been at a low over the last three years, and outbreaks tend to occur every three to seven years.

WHO noted that the country has “systems in place” to capture such information on respiratory diseases and reports to Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

Media in northwest Chinese cities have been sharing videos of hospitals with waiting rooms full of patients – including children – waiting to be seen.

China and WHO have been criticised over how transparent they were when Covid first emerged in Wuhan in 2019.


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