People in China should wear masks, socially distance and stay home if unwell amid an outbreak of a mystery respiratory illness, global health chiefs have warned.
Cases of ‘undiagnosed pneumonia’ have been detected at hospitals in Beijing and in Liaoning, a province 500 miles northeast of the capital.
Health facilities are ‘overwhelmed with sick children’ and classes are on the verge of being suspended according to local news reports.
Infected children are presenting with lung inflammation and a high fever, but not a cough or other symptoms that signal flu, RSV or another respiratory illnesses.
The situation prompted an alert from ProMed — a disease surveillance system which similarly sounded the alarm of a mystery infection in Wuhan in the closing days of 2019, which would later emerge as the global Covid pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged residents to don face coverings, stay away from ill people and remain at home if unwell. It has also called for the famously opaque nation to share ‘detailed information’ on the outbreak.
Chinese officials first reported an increase in respiratory diseases at a press conference on November 13, which they attributed to lifting lockdown restrictions.
Similar patterns had been seen worldwide as measures brought in to reduce the spread of Covid — such as face masks, social distancing and lockdowns — interrupted the spread of typical seasonal viruses, such as flu and RSV.
As a result, immunity against these bugs dropped across populations meaning people were more vulnerable to bugs as measures were lifted.
Officials blamed mycoplasma pneumoniae — a bacteria that causes lung infections — as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Covid for the spike in illness.
Then ProMed this week reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children.