China reports outbreak of ‘influenza-like illness’, according to the WHO

There have been reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children.

China reports outbreak of ‘influenza-like illness’, according to the WHO
(FILES) This file photo taken January 25, 2020 shows medical staff members, wearing protective clothing at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, as the city struggled with the outbreak of the once-mysterious virus. - Residents in Wuhan are marking three years since a once-mysterious virus plunged them into a terrifying lockdown, with their city becoming the epicentre of the Covid-19 epidemic that became global. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
The once-mysterious coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, at the start of 2020 (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed an increase in influenza-like illnesses in China.

The organisation has asked the country for more details amid reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children since mid-October.

Shanghai Songjiang District Central Hospital has received more than 700 children every day, according to Xinmin Weekly, which is three times higher than the same period in previous years.

Crowds of parents and children have also been seen dressed in winter clothes at Beijing’s Capital Institute of Pediatrics today.

Videos posted online by local media outlets show crowded hospitals with parents and children waiting to see doctors in Xian.

‘WHO has made an official request to China for detailed information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children,’ the UN health body said in a statement on Wednesday.

Laboratory results from reported outbreaks among children have also been requested by the WHO

It gave no indication of China’s response to their request for information.

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 06: Epidemic control workers who work in sanitation wear PPE to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as they leave after removing medical waste from apartments where people who have tested positive are doing home quarantine on December 6, 2022 in Beijing, China. In recent weeks, China has been recording some of its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, while many restrictions have been relaxed, there can still be targeted lockdowns and testing, mask mandates, and quarantines. The government has launched a vaccination drive targeting the elderly, and indicated that some positive cases are able to quarantine at home instead of at a government facility. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
China was criticised for its lack of transparency over the coronavirus pandemic (Picture: Getty Images)

A parent surnamed Zhang accompanied her coughing nine-year-old son and said he had fallen ill with mycoplasma pneumonia — a pathogen that can cause sore throats, fatigue and fever.

She told AFP news agency ‘there are really a lot of children who have caught it recently. Of course that worries me.’

Li Meiling, 42, whose eight-year-old daughter is suffering from some type of pneumonia said: ‘It’s true that a lot of children her age are ill with this at the moment.’

But she added: ‘It’s winter, so it’s normal that there are more cases of respiratory illnesses. It’s due to the season.’

Beijing’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning has referred journalists to ‘the competent Chinese authorities’ over the news.

The WHO has recommended communities in China impacted by the illness to get vaccinated, wear masks, keep their distance from sick people, wash hands and stay at home when ill.

Groups including the Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China.

The WHO said it is unclear if these are associated with an overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities – or separate events.

China blames the spike for a cold snap in the north west of the country, on the lifting of coronavirus symptoms and the circulation of known pathogens, namely influenza and common bacterial infections that affect children, including mycoplasma pneumonia.

Beijing is experiencing a cold snap as temperatures plummet below zero in the northern capital.

The city has ‘entered a high incidence season of respiratory infectious diseases’, Wang Quanyi from the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state media.

He added Beijing ‘is currently showing a trend of multiple pathogens coexisting’.

News of the increase in respiratory disease was first announced during a news conference by Chinese officials from the National Health Commission last week.

China and the WHO faced criticism during the coronavirus pandemic for not being transparent about the number of early cases.

There is still debate about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic three years on.

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