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China’s Mysterious Outbreak; Is This Another Pandemic?

Beijing, China, November 28, 2023: A recent outbreak of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness is evoking feelings of deja vu among people worldwide.

On November 13, 2023, China’s National Health Commission, in a press conference, reported a surge in respiratory illnesses in China, primarily affecting children. Authorities have attributed the rising cases to the end of COVID restrictions, the arrival of winter, and the spread of known pathogens, including influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia, and SARS-CoV-2, which caused COVID-19. The situation gained global attention this week when the World Health Organization (WHO) requested more information from China.

On November 20, 2023, the public disease surveillance system ProMED, which issued an early warning about mysterious pneumonia cases that turned out to be COVID-19, reported a surge in hospitalizations with long waiting lines.

Where is the Outbreak’s Center?

The cases have proliferated across China’s north-eastern regions, with Beijing having the most cases, followed by Liaoning, located 800 km apart from Beijing. According to Al Jazeera, one of the major hospitals in Beijing is reporting an average of 1,200 patients entering their emergency room every day.

Who is affected?

The infection predominantly affected children, leading schools in Beijing to dismiss entire classes if some students fell ill. However, the elderly and pregnant women may be vulnerable to this disease.

What are the Symptoms to Look Out For?

Symptoms seen in individuals include fever, lung inflammation without a cough, and pulmonary nodules—lumps on the lungs, usually a result of a past infection. Some children in Beijing have mycoplasma pneumonia, a common cause of pneumonia in children that is readily treated with antibiotics.

Do We Need to Be Worried?

No deaths have been reported yet. Chinese authorities have attributed the illnesses to the spread of known pathogens, and vaccines are available for them. So far, no new illness has been identified, although the WHO has asked China for more disease data. Beijing responded to WHO, stating, “There has been no detection of any unusual or novel pathogens.”

So, What is Next?

While there are no full-blown COVID-19-era restrictions, Chinese authorities have asked the public to step up vigilance and take preemptive measures. The WHO recommends that people in affected areas follow normal rules to avoid respiratory illnesses. These include getting vaccinated, isolating if symptoms emerge, and getting tested or wearing masks if necessary. Based on the current information, the WHO advised against any travel restrictions involving China.

The Indian health ministry, in its advisory to states and UTs, said, “This is noted to be important in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases. The Government of India is closely monitoring the situation and has indicated that there is no need for any alarm.”

Edited by: Sri Soudamini Konka

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Tags: #covid19 #china #pneumonia


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