Epidemiologists fret over China’s children pneumonia outbreak

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The Centre on Tuesday has asked the state governments to be on guard in the backdrop of the outbreak of the children pneumonia in China.

Video grab of patients

Video grab of patients

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, November 28: The statement of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has failed to answer questions on China’s raging children pneumonia wave with social media platforms flooded with videos of overwhelmed hospitals in provinces of the Communist ruled nation. Epidemiologists are drawing parallel with the outbreak of the Covid-19, which was also first denied by both China and the WHO.

The Centre on Tuesday has asked the state governments to be on guard in the backdrop of the outbreak of the children pneumonia in China. After Kerala, Karnataka has also issued a detailed guidelines, asking the people to follow the hygiene protocols which were prevalent during the days of Covid-19. Fox News reported on Tuesday that Netherlands is also witnessing cases of children with pneumonia. Taiwan has asked the people to be on alert.

ABS CBN News Channel quoted epidemiologist Dr Enrique Tayag saying that the Covid-19 was also initially called undiagnosed pneumonia. Dr Tayag said that the pneumonia cases in China are highly concerning. He called for immediate reporting of the respiratory infections in countries to the international health agencies for the timely diagnosis if it is an issue of public emergency.

Epidemiologists speaking to the European and American media are making a special mention of the low credibility of China in timely reporting the outbreak of virus. They are also mentioning that the outbreak of flu in several countries needs to be looked closely.   

Yet, there are some voices among the medical fraternity which is explaining that China is facing the surge of the pneumonia among the children because of coming out of the long lockdown. It may be recalled that China had imposed the most stringent lockdowns seen in any parts of the world. During the Chinese lockdown, the social media platforms were full of videos showing the people there struggling for basic needs of food, including rice, besides episodic scuffles at factories among the workers.

Nature, a medical journal, quoted Dr Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, saying that he was not surprised by the wave of illness (in China). Dr Cowling told the journal that “this is a typical ‘winter surge’ in acute respiratory infections. It is happening slightly earlier this year, perhaps because of increased population susceptibility to respiratory infections resulting from three years of COVID measures.”

The journal argued the case that the “nationwide lockdowns and other measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 prevented seasonal pathogens from circulating, giving people less opportunity to build up immunity against these microorganisms, a phenomenon known as ‘immunity debt’. It also quoted Dr Francois Balloux, a computational biologist at University College London, saying in a statement to the UK Science Media Centre that “since China experienced a far longer and harsher lockdown than essentially any other country on Earth, it was anticipated that those ‘lockdown exit’ waves could be substantial in China”.

The experts are also sharing the research of Andrw Ewing who had written in WHN Science Communications that Covid-19 infections had the nature to damage the immune system of the affected people, making them susceptible to other infections, which may possibly explain the rise in flu cases. Ewing argued that “immune dysregulation is considered by many to be a manifestation of long Covid, but it occurs in patients after mild, moderate, and severe acute Covid-19. Long Covid is usually defined by symptoms, however, and immune dysregulation is often difficult to diagnose as a symptom. While its prevalence is still uncounted the association of immune dysregulation with long COVID indicates it is at least on the order of 10% and might be considerably larger”.

He further argued that the “prevalence of acute Covid-19 infections has been incredibly high, resulting in far-reaching effects to humanity. Reinfections are becoming increasingly common, damaging the immune system, and leaving it weakened before subsequent infections occur. During this time, including the possibility of viral persistence with evidence from numerous studies, the immune system is not as strong and is more susceptible to other pathogens.”

With China being in denial for the presence of any unusual pathogens in its communication to the WHO, Dr Cowling argued in Nature that possibly the bacteria causing pneumonia among children in the Communist country has developed a very high level of resistance and thus may not be responding to anti-biotic.   

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