Last Updated: November 24, 2023, 06:45 IST
Chinese health authorities have reported no “unusual or novel pathogens” in respiratory illnesses spreading in the northern part of the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday, a day after they had requested data on respiratory illnesses among children.
There has been an increase in “influenza-like illness” since mid-October when compared to the same period in the previous three years. China’s National Health Commission last week said that the respiratory illness spike was due to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens, namely influenza and common bacterial infections that affect children.
Since mid-October 2023, WHO has been monitoring data from Chinese surveillance systems that have been showing an increase in respiratory illness in children in northern China.Today, WHO held a teleconference with Chinese health authorities in which they provided requested data… pic.twitter.com/lkO22QrelQ
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 23, 2023
On Thursday, WHO held a teleconference with Chinese health authorities from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Beijing Children’s Hospital, in which the requested data were provided. The WHO said that Chinese authorities had responded to a request for more information on the situation, where they said “that there has been no detection of any unusual or novel pathogens or unusual clinical presentations, including in Beijing and Liaoning.”
It was a matter, the Chinese authorities said, of only the “aforementioned general increase in respiratory illnesses due to multiple known pathogens.” They further stated that the rise in respiratory illness has not resulted in patient loads exceeding hospital capacities, WHO said.
“The Chinese authorities advised that, since mid-October, enhanced outpatient and inpatient surveillance has been implemented for respiratory illnesses covering a broad spectrum of viruses and bacteria, including, for the first time, Mycoplasma pneumoniae. This complements existing respiratory surveillance mechanisms and may have contributed to the observed increase in detection and reporting of respiratory illness in children,” the UN body added.
The Covid Criticism
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the WHO repeatedly criticised Chinese authorities for their lack of transparency and cooperation. More than three years after cases were first detected in Wuhan, heated debate still rages around the origins of Covid-19. Scientists are divided between two main theories of the cause: an escape from a laboratory in the city where such viruses were being studied and an intermediate animal that infected people at a local market.
Earlier this year, WHO experts said they were sure that Beijing had far more data that could shed light on the origins of Covid, and called it a moral imperative for the information to be shared. A team of specialists led by the WHO and accompanied by Chinese colleagues investigated China in early 2021, but there has not been a team able to return since and WHO officials have repeatedly asked for additional data.
(With agency inputs)
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