China pneumonia cases: Indian docs call for raising surveillance, hygiene measures

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common respiratory pathogen and a common cause of paediatric pneumonia, and is readily treated with antibiotics.

New Delhi: Amid a cluster of pneumonia cases in China, Indian doctors have called for increasing surveillance as well as hygiene measures, if such situation arises in the country.

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A recent post on ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, reported China experiencing a major pneumonia outbreak with no known cause in children. It said that the outbreak, causing symptoms such as high fever, and some developing pulmonary nodules is overwhelming paediatric hospitals in the country.

On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry noted that it is “closely monitoring the reported outbreak of H9N2 cases and clusters of respiratory illness in children” in northern China.

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“There is low risk to India from both the avian influenza case reported from China as well as the clusters of respiratory illness,” said a statement from the ministry.

It added that the country is prepared for any exigencies that may emerge from the current influenza situation in China.

Doctors, however, called for educating the public on preventive measures such as hand hygiene, influenza vaccinations, while “maintaining composure”

“Unlike Covid, which predominantly affected adults, the new pneumonia outbreak in China raises concerns about a potential vulnerability in children. Given the limited information available, it is essential to prioritise preventive measures such as hand hygiene, influenza vaccinations, isolating affected children, and using face coverings,” said Sachin Kumar, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Sakra World Hospital.

“Various factors, including viral mutations or environmental conditions, can contribute to the new pneumonia outbreak in China. India should take proactive measures to protect children by enhancing surveillance, encouraging vaccination, and implementing public health awareness campaigns,” added Anjali R Nath, Consultant Pulmonologist, SPARSH Hospital.

While the outbreak raised concerns of a new virus or a mutation in an existing respiratory virus, China assured the World Health Organization that they did not detect any unusual or novel pathogen.

The WHO said that China, on Thursday, provided data indicating an increase in outpatient consultations and hospital admissions of children due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae pneumonia since May, and RSV, adenovirus and influenza virus since October.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common respiratory pathogen and a common cause of paediatric pneumonia, and is readily treated with antibiotics.

“Chinese authorities advised that there has been no detection of any unusual or novel pathogens or unusual clinical presentations, including in Beijing and Liaoning,” the WHO said in a statement.

China said there has been a “general increase in respiratory illnesses due to multiple known pathogens. They further stated that the rise in respiratory illness has not resulted in patient loads exceeding hospital capacities”.

Some of these increases are earlier in the season than historically experienced, but not unexpected given the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, as similarly experienced in other countries. No changes in the disease presentation were reported by the Chinese health authorities, the UN health body said.

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