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18 July, 2024
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WHO sounds alarm on mysterious child respiratory illness in northern China

Overwhelmed hospitals, rising cases, and memories of COVID-19 spark urgent global concerns


In response to a respiratory illness affecting children in northern China, the World Health Organization (WHO) has requested "detailed information" from Chinese authorities. The organization specifically sought "additional epidemiologic and clinical information" in light of reports about the spread of "undiagnosed pneumonia" among children, leading to overcrowded clinics and emergency rooms, as reported by the South China Morning Post. Hospitals in the affected region are reportedly "overwhelmed with sick children," according to NBC News.

Chinese authorities attributed the surge in cases to factors such as the "lifting of COVID-19 restrictions" and the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection affecting younger children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19), as stated in the WHO's release.

Despite initial concerns, Chinese authorities have since stated that no new or unusual pathogens have been identified as the cause of the illnesses. The situation has raised scrutiny, reminiscent of China's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Health experts highlighted the role of antibiotic overuse in contributing to drug resistance and the spread of illnesses caused by mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria. While these bacteria typically lead to "mild infections of the respiratory system," overuse of antibiotics has exacerbated the problem, leading to more serious cases requiring hospital treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The WHO has recommended specific measures to mitigate the risk of infection, urging people in China to follow guidelines such as getting recommended vaccinations, maintaining distance from the ill, staying home when unwell, undergoing testing and seeking medical care as needed, wearing masks appropriately, ensuring good ventilation, and practicing regular handwashing.

[Source: Business Insider]

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