Outbreak of unknown infection in China - WHO demands the country shares data

In China, there has been a worrying upsurge in an unknown respiratory disease. The WHO has asked the country to provide information on this phenomenon.

Alert issued as new epidemic reported in China respiratory illness children hospital
© MR.Cole_Photographer / GETTYIMAGES
Alert issued as new epidemic reported in China respiratory illness children hospital

The coronavirus may seem like a thing of the past, but for many it remains an issue today. Some are still suffering the effects of long Covid, while others are dealing with the regular kind but in today's society - making it a whole different experience.

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Now, a worrying new story has broken: respiratory diseases have been detected in large numbers in China. The situation isnot unlike the SARS epidemic of 2003 and, much more recently, the Covid-19 epidemic, which began in late 2019 in the same country. With a growing number of cases of respiratory illnesses being detected in China, the WHO has issued an 'official request to China for detailed information'.

Children are more affected by these diseases

Are we witnessing the beginnings of a new global epidemic? For the moment, there's nothing to indicate the illness will spread on such a large scale, but the scenario currently unfolding in China is clearly reminiscent of the beginnings of the most recent health crisis. The Telegraph has called it a 'reported epidemic of 'undiagnosed pneumonia''. As the WHO states in apress release on X:

On 21 November, media and ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China.

The WHO relies mainly on a ProMed press release indicating that the upsurge in respiratory illnesses is such that schools are being forced to close. Beijing's children's hospital is overcrowded, and one Beijing citizen, Mr Wei, told FTV News:

Many, many are hospitalised. They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature (fever) and many develop pulmonary nodules.

Is this a new disease?

On this point, there's no answer yet. The French publication Le Parisien contacted virologist Bruno Lima, who suggests the possibility of a mass infection with Mycoplasma pneumoniae: a known bacterium circulating not only in China, but also in France.

China, for its part, attributes this phenomenon to the lifting of restrictions on Covid-19. This would appear to be a case of 'exposure debt': 'a large reservoir of young people who have not been exposed for nearly four years to a large number of winter pathogens' will therefore fall ill more easily, explains Prof. Antoine Flahaut of the University of Geneva.

Until we know more about this epidemic, the WHO is calling on the Chinese population to be cautious by observing the usual barrier gestures.

This article has been adapted from Gentside FR.

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Sources used:


Le Parisien: Flambée de maladies respiratoires en Chine : faut-il craindre une nouvelle épidémie inconnue ?


The Telegraph: Mystery child pneumonia outbreak reported in China hospitals

Outbreak of unknown infection in China: Here’s when the ‘ferocious’ epidemic is expected to peak Outbreak of unknown infection in China: Here’s when the ‘ferocious’ epidemic is expected to peak