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Rising Cases of Respiratory Diseases in Children: An Overview of the Situation



Respiratory Diseases in Children


In recent weeks, there are concerns for a surge in respiratory diseases among children in China, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to intervene and investigate the nature of this outbreak. While initial reports raised the possibility of a new virus, subsequent information shared by Chinese authorities suggest a different scenario.


The first alert came in late November from ProMed, the surveillance system for emerging diseases, which reported cases of "undiagnosed pneumonia" in children in China. These cases presented with high fever and lung abnormalities but lacked typical cough. Chinese health officials, in collaboration with the WHO, have then provided data on the outbreak, including laboratory results, which indicated no presence of unusual pathogens. As a result, the hypothesis of a new virus circulating in China has been largely dismissed.


While some health experts, including Mandy Cohen from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, view the increase in respiratory diseases as relatively harmless, caution has been advised. For Instance, President Biden, has suggested limiting travel to China until further information are available.


One potential explanation for the surge in respiratory illnesses among children in China likely depends on the delicate balance between human activity and the environment. This altered equilibrium could play a significant role in the development of transmissible and endemic diseases. Moreover, the prolonged restrictions imposed on children due to the Sars-Cov2 pandemic may have impacted their immune systems, potentially diminishing their ability to combat viruses.


Data shared by China indicate a rise in hospitalizations of children due to influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, all typical pathogens for this time of year. Similar increases in mycoplasma pneumonia cases have been reported in other countries such as France and Vietnam.


In Italy, two cases of mycoplasma pneumonia in children have been reported, prompting reassurance from the Institute of Health, which emphasized the fact that such infections have always been present in the community.


In summary, while the situation warrants attention, current evidence suggests that the surge in respiratory diseases among children in China is primarily linked to known pathogens, and, at this time, there is no conclusive evidence of a new virus. However, monitoring and cooperation between international health organizations remain crucial to understand and effectively address this situation.

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