Do surging respiratory virus cases in China signal new pandemic?

Authorities cite cold season and relaxation of COVID-19 limitations as reasons for sudden surge in illness

By Web Desk
November 26, 2023
Parents accompany their sick children at a hospital in China. — AFP/File

Concerns have been raised both inside and outside of China in recent weeks due to a dramatic surge in cases of paediatric respiratory infection.

World Health Organisation (WHO) authorities claim that information from China's government indicates that a cluster of respiratory infections that has sent dozens of children to hospitals in northern China is not the result of a "novel pathogen."

In a statement released earlier this week, WHO said that it had formally requested China to provide comprehensive data, including test results, regarding the increase in paediatric respiratory disease clusters that have been reported.

The statement came after groups of pneumonia cases that went misdiagnosed in children's hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning were discovered, according to news reports, social media posts, and a disease-tracking website.

According to WHO, when the required data was provided, it was evident that a spike in recognised infections was the reason for a surge in paediatric outpatient visits and inpatient admissions.

These included the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, as well as influenza, adenovirus, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common cause of pneumonia acquired in the community.

According to Axios, the start of the cold season and the relaxation of COVID-19 limitations were cited by the authorities as the reasons for this sudden surge.

Prior to China releasing the statistics, international specialists told the Associated Press that although they thought the situation needed careful observation, they were not sure the rise in sickness was an indication of a new worldwide pandemic.