WHO issue information request to China after surge in respiratory illnesses

North China experiences an increase in respiratory illnesses in children post Covid and the WHO makes an information request following reports of pneumonia cases.

Kiays Khalil November 24 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) has requested a release of information from China as respiratory illnesses spike in the north post Covid.

The most prevalent respiratory disease reported is pneumonia and data available indicates a rise in paediatric admissions with some hospitals in Beijing being overwhelmed.  

In December 2019 China reported a rise of atypical pneumonia in the city of Wuhan to the WHO which later developed into the outbreak of Covid. In this period the medical device sector took a heavy hit as the supply chain slowed down while certain devices like ventilators and point of care testing (POCT) took priority.

During a press conference on the 13 November 2023, Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission reported an increase in incidence of respiratory diseases. Which they accredited to the lifting covid restrictions and the spread of pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection which typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

They also called for an increase in disease surveillance in healthcare facilities and community settings. The pandemic proved the disease surveillance systems are essential for global health and incorporated technologies such as wastewater monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI).

On 21 November, ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China but it’s uncertain if these are connected respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities.

On 22 November the WHO requested epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from the impacted areas, through the International Health Regulations mechanism. They also inquired for information on recent trends of known pathogens including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and mycoplasma pneumoniae and the toll it is having on their healthcare system.

Zania Stamataki, associate professor in viral immunology at the University of Birmingham, UK told the British Medical Journal (BMJ): “There is currently no evidence that the increase in paediatric pneumonia cases in China may be due to a new virus.”

One of the ten largest medical devices markets worldwide, China’s device market had a forecast value of around $42.6 billion in 2022.

The WHO is corresponding with clinicians and scientists through their partnerships and networks in China and will be providing further information as it comes in.

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