Surge in respiratory illnesses reported in China

Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission have reported an increase in incidence of respiratory diseases in China. This increase has been attributed to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.

These are all common pathogens but due to changes in social mixing may not follow usual seasonal infection patterns. The UK experienced similar trends in 2022.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provided an update on 23 November after speaking with Chinese health authorities from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Beijing Children's Hospital. The Chinese authorities advised that there has been no detection of any unusual or novel pathogens or unusual clinical presentations, including in Beijing and Liaoning, but only the general increase in respiratory illnesses due to multiple known pathogens.  

UKHSA is closely monitoring the situation and will respond as more information becomes available.

UKHSA routinely conducts horizon scanning for international infectious disease signals to detect, assess and communicate potential infectious threats to UK public health and will continue to work with WHO as well as other professional organizations in the UK and internationally to better understand the current epidemiology.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:

The World Health Organization has received an official response from China following its request for detailed information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children.

We need to keep an open mind about the cause of any increased reporting of clusters of disease including of this illness in Chinese children.

UKHSA is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work with international partners to assess the emerging information as it becomes available."

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