Crowd gathers during China’s Lunar Recent 12 months celebrations.
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Chinese authorities reportedly called for vigilance Friday as a spike in respiratory illness continues to pile pressure on health care facilities within the north of the country, despite assurances that no “unusual or novel pathogens” have been detected.
The World Health Organization said Thursday that Beijing had responded to its request for data following reports of “clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in kid’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other places in China.” Chinese health authorities said no changes in disease presentation had been reported, in line with the WHO.
China has been facing a surge in respiratory infections similar to influenza and clusters of pneumonia amongst children, with hospitals particularly in northern China reporting that they’re “overwhelmed” with patients.
The WHO said that the surge was likely linked to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions as China experiences its first full winter season since declaring an end to the pandemic in December.
The U.N. health body said that current data suggests that the pathogens are currently behaving in typical ways which can be treatable with existing antibiotics, but added that China should reinforce measures to limit the spread of the disease including via vaccines and mask-wearing.
It also said it doesn’t recommend any specific measures for travelers to China and advised against the appliance of any travel or trade restrictions right now.
China’s State Council said in an update Friday that influenza cases, which have surged since October, would likely peak this winter and spring, in line with Reuters. Nonetheless, it added that pneumonia infections, which have been rising since May, could persist further into the longer term.
It said that local authorities should “strengthen information reporting on infectious diseases to make sure information is reported in a timely and accurate manner.”
Each China and the WHO have come under scrutiny over their reporting of the earliest Covid-19 cases in 2020.
The WHO said that it should proceed to observe the present outbreak in China and that it’s working with international partners to evaluate the emerging information.
The U.K. Health Security Agency said in a statement Friday that it was vital to “keep an open mind” about recent outbreaks.
It follows a surge in Strep A infections amongst children within the U.K. in 2022, which the health agency attributed to a change in social mixing patterns.