Spread of pneumonia in children in China: what's happening

The World Health Organization has asked Beijing for explanations for what is happening

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Spread of pneumonia in children in China: what's happening
© Lintao Zhang / Staff Getty Images News

Since around mid-November, a real epidemic of pneumonia in children has broken out in China. The National Health Commission has reported an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases in China. ProMED also reported news of a cluster of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China.

The World Health Organization has asked China for clarification on what is happening in the country. We remind you that the global COVID pandemic started in China at the end of 2019. "Further information was requested on recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV and mycoplasma pneumoniae, and on the current burden on healthcare systems.

The organization is also in contact with doctors and scientists through our technical partnerships and existing networks in China. It is unclear whether these are associated with the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities or whether they are separate events.

Further epidemiological and clinical information, as well as laboratory results of these clusters reported among children, through the mechanism of the International Health Regulations," asks WHO.

What is happening in China?

WHO recommended that the Chinese population follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory diseases, such as vaccination, distancing, as well as wearing masks where necessary and regularly washing hands.

On November 13, 2023, scientists from China's National Health Commission reported an increase in the incidence of respiratory infections in China, presumably due to the circulation of known pathogens following the end of all Covid restrictions in the country.

The spreading of pneumonia could, according to scientists, be caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which usually affects the upper respiratory tract, but which is also a frequent cause of pneumonia in children. However, the formation of pulmonary nodules is not typical of Mycoplasma, which mainly generates more irregular pulmonary infiltrations, although it cannot be excluded that it may evolve into an atypical form.​ The situation in still in progress, and yet there aren't a cause for what is happening.