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China sees mysterious pneumonia outbreak, WHO seeks details

Hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning, 500 miles northeast, are struggling to cope with an influx of sick children, straining their resources to the breaking point. The affected children present with unusual symptoms, including lung inflammation and high fever, but noticeably lack the typical cough and other signs associated with flu, RSV, and other respiratory illnesses.

China sees mysterious pneumonia outbreak hospitals flooded with patients WHO seeks details gcw
First Published Nov 23, 2023, 8:59 AM IST

China, which is still recovering from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, is facing another possible health emergency -- a mysterious pneumonia outbreak has swept through schools and resulted in hospitals being overwhelmed with sick children. This presents a potential new health disaster. This has worried specialists in global health.

Beijing and the province of Liaoning are the epicentres of this outbreak, with paediatric hospitals dealing with an unprecedented volume of ill youngsters. Due to the severity of the crisis, which is reminiscent of the early stages of COVID-19, both kids and instructors have become ill, causing several schools to suspend lessons.

The children who are impacted are displaying symptoms such as a high temperature and inflammation of the lungs, but they do not have a cough, which is typical when someone has the flu or a respiratory viral illness like RSV.

On Tuesday, the global illness surveillance network ProMed released a warning regarding children's undetected pneumonia. Although the current outbreak has not been observed to impact adults, its fast spread among youngsters raises the possibility that school surroundings may be linked to it. The outbreak's beginning is uncertain.

A video of individuals in China using face masks in the aftermath of the pneumonia outbreak was uploaded by US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding.

Undiagnosed pneumonia cases have increased, according to Chinese hospitals, especially since the National Day vacation in early October. Even if the epidemic is severe, no fatalities have been documented as of yet.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally requested comprehensive data from China over a rise in respiratory ailments and documented paediatric pneumonia clusters.  "It is unclear if these are associated with the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities or separate events," it said.

It has recommended that people in China take certain steps to lower their risk of respiratory illnesses. These steps include getting vaccinated, avoiding sick people, staying at home when sick, getting tested and receiving medical attention when necessary, wearing masks when necessary, making sure there is adequate ventilation, and regularly washing your hands.

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