Respiratory illness in China

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

A CLUSTER of respiratory illness is developing in children in China and the Ministry of Health is taking note. 

The Ministry of Health has advised the public to continue to maintain the principles and practice of good hygiene, as these measures will assist in the maintenance of low levels of transmission of infectious diseases.

In a press release on Thursday, the ministry also reminded the population that the Influenza season runs from October 2023 to May 2024 and persons should get the annual influenza vaccine. 

The ministry stated that via its International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point (the Chief Medical Officer), received correspondence from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) IHR regional focal point on the cluster of respiratory illness in children. 

The Ministry of Health confirmed the following excerpt taken from the WHO: 

“On 21 November, media and ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. It is unclear if these are associated with the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities, or separate events.  

“On 22 November, WHO requested additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism. We have also requested further information about recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens in China.”

On Thursday, WHO stated in a media release that earlier that day, the organisation held a teleconference with Chinese health authorities from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Beijing Children’s Hospital, facilitated by the National Health Commission and the National Administration of Disease Control and Prevention, in which the requested data were provided, indicating an increase in outpatient consultations and hospital admissions of children due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia since May, and RSV, adenovirus and influenza virus since October.

“WHO is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with national authorities in China. WHO will continue to provide updates as warranted,” the release stated. 

WHO is also not recommending any specific measures for travellers to China.  

“In general, persons should avoid travel while experiencing symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, if possible; in case of symptoms during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share travel history with their health care provider,” WHO stated. 

WHO also advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions based on the current information available on this event. 


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