SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) last week asked China to provide details on a rise in respiratory illnesses and cases of pneumonia among children, sparking international outcry after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WHO later said health authorities had not detected any unusual or new pathogens, and doctors and public health researchers also say there is no cause for concern. international.
However, Taiwanese authorities this week advised people at risk to avoid traveling to China.
An update on what we know about the resurgence of respiratory illnesses in China, and why experts say there is no cause for alarm.
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?
The rise in respiratory illnesses comes as China enters its first winter since strict COVID-19 health restrictions were lifted last December.
Last week, the WHO asked China for more information on undiagnosed cases of pneumonia in children, as media outlets published videos of crowded hospitals.
HOW GREAT IS THE RECRUDESCENCE?
The National Health Commission said in a press conference on November 13 that there was an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases, without further details.
In an email to Reuters, the WHO office in China told Reuters that according to Chinese authorities, the current figures are not higher than the peak observed during the last cold season before the pandemic.
WHAT ARE THE PATHOGENS IN CIRCULATION?
Data suggests the increase is linked to the lifting of restrictions as well as the circulation of known pathogens such as mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common bacterial infection that typically affects children.
Influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and adenovirus have been circulating since October.
IS MYCOPLASM PNEUMONIAE A GREAT SOURCE OF CONCERN?
Cases of mycoplasma pneumoniae, which have also seen an upsurge in other countries, do not need to be reported to the WHO, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization, said on Wednesday. health.
The number of cases had been increasing over the past two months but appears to be declining, she said.
Serious complications are possible, but most people recover without antibiotics, says Rajib Dasgupta, an epidemiologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
WHY ARE EXPERTS NOT WORRIED?
The situation does not alarm Chinese and international experts as many countries have experienced a similar increase in respiratory illnesses after easing their health restrictions.
Maria Van Kerkhove believes that the increase in the number of cases was predictable with the onset of winter.
(Reporting Andrew Silver; French version Victor Goury-Laffont, edited by Blandine Hénault)
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