China responds to WHO inquiry on ‘mystery’ illness outbreak

China responds to WHO inquiry on ‘mystery’ illness outbreak
via FRANCE 24 English, South China Morning Post

A surge in respiratory diseases, and a week later, clusters of pneumonia in children, are overwhelming Chinese hospitals

November 24, 2023
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China has responded to the World Health Organization’s request for data regarding a spike in respiratory illnesses and clusters of pneumonia among children in the country.
Catch up: Chinese authorities announced an increase in respiratory diseases on Nov. 13, attributing them to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens. More than a week later, reports on clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia among children north of the country made rounds.
Known pathogens: The pathogens reported include influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and mycoplasma pneumoniae. Mycoplasma pneumoniae has been circulating in China since May, while influenza, RSV and adenovirus have been circulating since October, according to Reuters.
What the WHO asked for: It remains unclear whether the pair of surges are related. On Wednesday, the WHO sought additional epidemiological and clinical information — including laboratory results from the pneumonia cases — from China through the International Health Regulations mechanism.
What China is saying: In compliance with the rule, China reportedly responded within 24 hours. Aside from providing the requested data, local authorities said they have not detected any new or unusual pathogens.
Possible causes: Experts reportedly attribute the rise in cases to factors such as the arrival of winter and lack of prior immunity in children. This will be China’s first full winter since it lifted coronavirus restrictions in December.
“Since China experienced a far longer and harsher lockdown than essentially any other country on Earth, it was anticipated that those ‘lockdown exit’ waves could be substantial in China,” said Francois Balloux, a professor at University College London’s biosciences division, as per AFP. He added that there is no reason to suspect a novel pathogen unless new evidence emerges.
Why this matters: The lack of information has caused fears of another coronavirus-like outbreak. Several news outlets have dubbed the situation a “mystery” illness.
China has long faced criticism for its alleged lack of transparency in reporting the earliest cases of COVID-19. The U.S. intelligence community has also remained divided on the origins of the pandemic, suggesting it might be impossible due to Beijing’s official obstruction of independent reviews.
 
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      Carl Samson

      Carl Samson
      is a Senior Editor for NextShark

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