WHO: China says surge in illnesses among children not linked to new pathogen

November 25, 2023  21:52

Health authorities in China told the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday that a spike in cases of pneumonia or respiratory illness among children in the northern part of the country is linked to typical seasonal microbes and not to any new or unknown pathogen, the organization says.

Following a request for more information from China on Wednesday about the rising incidence among children, the WHO held a teleconference with leaders of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Beijing Children's Hospital, where those officials shared the requested details.

Chinese officials said they had seen an increase in the number of sick children seeing doctors or being hospitalized for Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common infection that often affects young children. It can be treated with antibiotics.

Officials said doctor visits and hospitalizations have also increased since October due to RSV, adenovirus, and influenza. Some of these increases occurred a little earlier than usual, but WHO said they were not unexpected.

Similar early spikes in respiratory illnesses have been seen in other countries since the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Scientists believe the restrictions created a kind of "immunity gap" that made people more vulnerable to infection when they stopped taking precautions. That's exactly what happened last fall in the United States, when there was an early spike in RSV cases among children.

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