Nov 24, 2023 - Health

Respiratory virus in China not thought to be novel pathogen, officials say

Parents with children who are suffering from respiratory diseases are lining up at a children's hospital in Chongqing, China, on November 23. Photo: Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

China's government has provided evidence that a cluster of respiratory infections that has sent scores of kids to hospitals in northern China is not from a "novel pathogen," according to World Health Organization officials.

Driving the news: Earlier this week, WHO released a statement saying it made an official request to China for detailed information — including laboratory results — about an increase in reported clusters of respiratory illness in children.

  • It came after news reports, social media posts and a disease-tracking website indicated clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children's hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning, they said.

What they are saying: WHO said the requested data were provided, and that it showed an increase in outpatient visits and inpatient admissions among children due to a rise in known pathogens.

  • That included respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, as well as adenovirus, influenza and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterium that is a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia.
  • Authorities attributed this increase to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the arrival of the cold season, they said.
  • Before China released the data, outside experts told the Associated Press that while they believed the situation required close monitoring, they were not convinced the increase in illness signaled the start of a new global outbreak.
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