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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Children and their parents wait at an outpatient area at a children hospital in Beijing on November 23, 2023. — AFP pic
BEIJING, Nov 24 — China has reported no ‘unusual or novel pathogens’ in respiratory illnesses spreading in the north of the country, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Northern China has recorded an increase in “influenza-like illness” since mid-October when compared to the same period in the previous three years, said the WHO, which had requested more information on the situation.
China’s National Health Commission told reporters last week 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, including mycoplasma pneumonia.
The WHO said Thursday that Chinese authorities had responded, advising “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 authorities said, of the “aforementioned general increase in respiratory illnesses due to multiple known pathogens.”
The Chinese capital of Beijing, located in the north of the country, is currently experiencing a cold snap, with temperatures expected to plummet to well below zero by Friday, state media said.
The city has “entered a high incidence season of respiratory infectious diseases”, Wang Quanyi, deputy director and chief epidemiological expert at the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state media.
Beijing “is currently showing a trend of multiple pathogens coexisting”, he added.
‘Due to the season’
At the children’s hospital of Beijing’s Capital Institute of Pediatrics on Thursday, AFP journalists saw crowds of parents and children dressed in winter clothes.
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 a sore throat, fatigue and fever.
“There are really a lot of children who have caught it recently,” she said. “Of course that worries me!”
Li Meiling, 42, had brought her eight-year-old daughter, who she said was suffering from the same type of pneumonia.
“It’s true that a lot of children her age are ill with this at the moment,” she told AFP.
But she also thought it was “normal that there are more cases of respiratory illnesses. It’s due to the season.”
The WHO has urged people to take preventative measures, including getting vaccinated, keeping distance from sick people and wearing masks.
Calls for transparency
Over the course 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.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stressed that getting to the bottom of the mystery could help avert future pandemics. — AFP
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