NewsBeijing assures no new virus amidst respiratory disease rise: It's COVID

Beijing assures no new virus amidst respiratory disease rise: It's COVID

Mysterious infections in China. Authorities reassure.
Mysterious infections in China. Authorities reassure.
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/WU HAO
10:09 AM EST, November 27, 2023

China has seen a sudden surge in respiratory disease cases recently, invoking memories in the West of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought much of the world to a standstill. Yet Beijing's authorities insist the situation is due to known factors like the flu and other common pathogens, not a new virus.

"Recent clusters of respiratory infections have resulted from overlaps of common viruses such as the flu virus, rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, and also bacteria like mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common cause of respiratory infections," explained a spokesperson for the National Health Commission in China.

Mysterious infections in China - authorities reassure

Beijing has directed local authorities to open more health clinics and advocate vaccinations among children and the elderly to control this surge of respiratory illnesses. This winter marks China’s first since the complete elimination of COVID-19 restrictions.

"We must ensure the availability of suitable clinics and procedure rooms, extend working hours, and increase the supply of medicines," said Mi Feng, spokesperson for the health ministry.

Feng encouraged the public to wear protective masks and urged local authorities to reinforce preventive measures in crowded settings such as schools and nursing homes.

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Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally requested information from China concerning the "potentially worrying" surge in respiratory illnesses. Numerous clusters of pneumonia in children have been confirmed in China according to local media.

Experts highlight that emerging strains of flu or other potential pandemic-causing viruses typically begin with unexplained clusters of respiratory diseases. Both SARS and COVID-19 were initially identified as unusual forms of pneumonia.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities connected the rise in cases to the easing of pandemic restrictions. Beijing has noted that other countries also experienced a spike in respiratory illnesses after loosening COVID-19 restrictions.

The WHO reported on Thursday that Chinese health officials had provided the necessary data in a special teleconference. They indicated a rise in hospital admissions in the country for diseases including bacterial infections, RSV, and flu viruses since October.

China maintains that the current situation is not significantly impacting hospitals, which are not being overwhelmed by additional hospitalizations.

The UN seldom publicly requests detailed health information from countries. In the case of China, such a step was taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in China in 2019 and 2020 and subsequently spread worldwide. Beijing initially downplayed the risk associated with the then-unknown disease.

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