Amid rising pneumonia cases and WHO concerns China still says no ‘unusual’ virus or novel pathogens

Despite mounting concerns raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding a surge in respiratory illnesses among children, China has assured the global health community that no unusual or new pathogens have been identified in the northern region.

The World Health Organisation has been closely monitoring data from Chinese surveillance systems since mid-October, revealing an uptick in respiratory illnesses among children in northern China. Chinese health authorities, however, reported no changes in the disease presentation and emphasized the absence of unusual or novel pathogens. The surge in cases has been attributed to a general increase in respiratory illnesses caused by multiple known pathogens.

On November 23, the WHO conducted a teleconference with Chinese health officials from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the Beijing Children’s Hospital. The National Health Commission and the National Administration of Disease Control and Prevention facilitated the discussion, during which data indicating a rise in outpatient consultations and hospital admissions due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae was presented.

Chinese authorities highlighted that the increased respiratory illness has not overwhelmed hospital capacities. Enhanced outpatient and inpatient surveillance have been in place since mid-October, covering a broad spectrum of viruses and bacteria. Notably, this includes the first-time inclusion of Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

Following the teleconference, the WHO requested additional epidemiologic and clinical information, along with laboratory results from the reported clusters among children, under the International Health Regulations mechanism. The request sought insights into recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

Authorities in China, during a press conference on November 13, attributed the increase in respiratory diseases to the easing of COVID restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2.