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China’s child pneumonia outbreak a global concern

InternationalChina’s child pneumonia outbreak a global concern

Photo: Dr. Russell Manzanero, National Epidemiologist

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 23, 2023

The recent outbreak of a mysterious form of pneumonia among children in China has sparked global concern as hospitals in major cities, including Beijing, are overwhelmed with young patients exhibiting unusual symptoms.

According to ProMed and Taiwanese outlet FTV News, this epidemic has led to numerous hospitalizations, with children showing high fevers and pulmonary nodules, but no coughs or other common pneumonia symptoms.

One Beijing resident, Mr. Wei, expressed his alarm to FTV News: “They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature (fever) and many develop pulmonary nodules.” ProMed, which previously alerted the world to Sars-Cov-2 in late 2019, notes the nature of this outbreak, highlighting its rapid spread among children and the lack of adult cases, suggesting a possible link to school environments.

Experts suspect the outbreak might be linked to Mycoplasma pneumoniae, known as “walking pneumonia.” Zhou Huixia, from the Seventh Medical Center of the Chinese PLA General Hospital, told China Daily about the intensity of this wave, especially after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. “Compared to previous years, we found more patients with mixed infections, drug resistance, and lobar pneumonia,” she remarked.

Dr. Li Yuchuan from Beijing Children’s Hospital echoed these concerns in his conversation with China Voice, noting multiple peaks of respiratory diseases throughout the year.

In Belize, Dr. Russell Manzanero, the national epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, in an interview with KREM news, highlighted the global alertness to such outbreaks. “As soon as there is an alert of anything unusual or suspected, then we are alerted, and we become aware of that,” he explained, emphasizing Belize’s readiness to monitor and respond to such incidents.

Addressing the challenges post-Covid-19, Dr. Manzanero noted, “We did see an increase in influenza’s respiratory viruses. We knew that once those public health measures were lifted and people started gathering again, the schools, in children, for example, that’s where we see these increased cases first.”

He also discussed ongoing training for health stakeholders in Belize, in collaboration with PAHO, to strengthen surveillance and response to such respiratory viruses. “In the past, we have been seeing primarily just COVID since the pandemic started in 2020. However, now we see that we have to get back to what was our original respiratory surveillance, which is inclusive of influenza, and other respiratory viruses; so, we are revising our plans,” he concluded.

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