First Published: 24th November, 2023 12:48 IST

The respiratory illness first broke out in north China with children being the most affected. The symptoms of the illness is similar to that of pneumonia

China which is still grappling with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic is battling yet another health emergency – a respiratory illness with symptoms similar to pneumonia. As per reports coming in from China, children are the worst affected with pediatric hospitals running out of beds. Classes in some schools have already been suspended.

The outbreak that is now raising concerns across the globe and has caught the attention of World Health Organisation (WHO) worried too, first originated in north China in mid-October.
ProMed, an international disease surveillance platform has issued an alert over the undiagnosed pneumonia affecting children. WHO has sought more information from China regarding the outbreak.

Although the origin of the outbreak is not known yet, doctors speculate that “walking pneumonia,” or mycoplasma pneumoniae, a kind of bacteria, might be the cause.

The primary symptoms reported in the cases in China are similar to that of pneumonia, including fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing. In some cases the condition has been severe requiring hospitalization.

The symptoms exhibited by the affected children are high fever and lung inflammation, but no cough, which is common when an individual is down with flu or is suffering from respiratory virus diseases like RSV.
A citizen from Beijing told Taiwanese news website FTV News, “Many, many (children) are hospitalised. They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature and many develop pulmonary nodules,” India Today reported.

Chinese authorities have attributed the spike in respiratory illnesses to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection in children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the virus that causes Covid-19.

Earlier this month, one of China’s leading hospitals reported a surge in mycoplasma pneumonia and other respiratory diseases among children in September and October. Beijing Friendship hospital said the average number of daily outpatient and emergency visits to the pediatric department had increased to more than 1,600, due to the “rapid spread” of respiratory infections.
But in recent weeks the number of infected children in several provinces appears to have fallen, according to Sixth Tone, a local media outlet was quoted by The Guardian.

WHO’s advisory to the public

The WHO has advised people in the affected areas to take precautionary measures. These include practicing good hygiene, seeking medical attention for respiratory symptoms, and staying informed about the situation.

Meanwhile, after WHO sought more information from China regarding the outbreak, China on Friday said that there is no detection of any unusual or novel pathogens.

The Chinese authorities further stated that the rise in respiratory illness has not resulted in patient loads exceeding hospital capacities.

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