WHO Official: China’s Current Respiratory Illness Surge Lower than Pre-Pandemic Levels

SHANGHAI, Nov 27 (Reuters) – The recent spike in respiratory illnesses in China has not reached the same levels as before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a World Health Organisation official. The WHO reiterated that no new or unusual pathogens had been identified in the recent cases.

Maria Van Kerkhove, acting director of the WHO’s department of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention, indicated that the rise is driven by an increase in the number of children contracting diseases they had avoided during the COVID-19 restrictions of the past two years.

“When we looked at comparisons prior to the pandemic and the current situation, the peak is not as high as what they saw in 2018-2019,” Van Kerkhove explained in an interview with health news outlet STAT.

“This is not a sign of a novel pathogen. This is expected. This is what most countries faced a year or two ago,” she added.

China’s National Health Commission spokesperson, Mi Feng, mentioned that the surge in acute respiratory illnesses is linked to the simultaneous circulation of several kinds of pathogens, with influenza being the most prominent.

The issue became global when the World Health Organization requested more information from China after a report on clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children surfaced from the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases.

China and the WHO have faced prior questions about the transparency of reporting early in the pandemic, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. The WHO stated that no new or unusual pathogens had been found in the recent illnesses.

Health officials advised local authorities on Sunday to increase the number of fever clinics, as hospitals warn of long waits in northern areas like Beijing and Liaoning province, where cases among children appear to be particularly high.

The new cases of respiratory illnesses, spread by young adults in the workplace and children at school, could peak in the next couple of weeks, according to Li Tongzeng, the chief physician at the infectious diseases department at Beijing You’an Hospital.

In a report published on Monday, Li also warned of the potential for a second wave peaking during the New Year holidays, as the elderly could become more at risk of infection during family gatherings.

Reporting by Andrew Silver; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Miral Fahmy & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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