SHANGHAI, Nov 27 (Reuters) – The current surge in respiratory illnesses in China is not as high as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, a World Health Organization official said, reiterating that no new or unusual pathogens have been identified. cases.
Maria van Kerkov, acting director of the WHO’s Department of Epidemiology and Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention, said the increase was driven by an increase in the number of children exposed to pathogens they avoided during two years of Covid restrictions.
“We asked about pre-pandemic comparisons. The waves they’re seeing now are not as high as the peaks they saw in 2018-2019,” Van Gerkov said. said In an interview Friday with the health news agency STAT.
“This is not a sign of a new pathogen. This is expected. This is what most countries dealt with a couple of years ago,” he added.
Mi Feng, a spokeswoman for China’s National Health Commission, said on Sunday that the rise in acute respiratory illnesses has been linked to the simultaneous circulation of several types of pathogens, most notably influenza.
The spike became a global issue last week when the World Health Organization asked China for more information, citing reports of clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children through an emerging disease surveillance program.
China and the WHO have faced questions over the transparency of the initial reporting of the epidemic, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. The WHO said on Friday that no new or unusual pathogens had been identified in the recent outbreaks.
Health officials urged local authorities on Sunday to increase the number of flu clinics, as cases in northern regions such as Beijing and Liaoning province show high numbers of cases among children and hospitals warn of long waits.
Li Dongcheng, chief physician of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Beijing Yu’an Hospital, told the Global Times newspaper that new respiratory illnesses spread by young people in the workplace and children at school could peak in the next two weeks.
In a statement released on Monday, he also warned of the possibility of a second wave peaking during the New Year holiday, as elderly people are more likely to be infected during family gatherings.
Reporting by Andrew Silver; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Miral Fahmy & Simon Cameron-Moore
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