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Rise of respiratory diseases in China

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Beijing residents walk the streets of the Chinese capital wearing masks due to of the increase in cases of respiratory diseases, November 21, 2023.

Agence France-Presse

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The World Health Organization expressed concern on Wednesday about an increase in respiratory diseases in China and asked the population “to take protective measures”.

The WHO has sent a formal request to China for detailed information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and pneumonia outbreaks reported among children, said the statement published on authenticity was confirmed to AFP by a spokesperson for the organization, who recommends following measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness.

These measures – already hammered out during the COVID-19 pandemic – include vaccination, distancing from sick people, confinement at home in the event of symptoms, tests and care if required as well as wearing a mask if appropriate, good ventilation of the premises and washing hands.

After Chinese authorities and media reported a rise in respiratory illnesses, including outbreaks of undiagnosed pneumonia among children in northern China, the WHO on November 22 called , additional epidemiological and clinical information, as well as laboratory results on these reported outbreaks in children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism.

The organization also requested additional information on recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), respiratory virus syncytial (RSV) which affects infants and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, as well as on the degree of congestion in the health system, the press release further specifies.

WHO is connecting with clinicians and scientists through existing technical partnerships and networks in China.

The UN organization said Chinese authorities attributed the increase in respiratory illnesses to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and to the circulation of known pathogens.

During a press briefing on November 13, they highlighted the need to improve disease surveillance in health facilities and community settings, as well as to strengthen the capacity of the health system to take into account burdens patients, recalls the WHO.

The organization gave no indication of China's reception of the request for information .

The WHO had repeatedly criticized the Chinese authorities for their lack of transparency and cooperation during the pandemic, the first cases of which were appeared in China at the end of 2019.

This lack of cooperation was also denounced by the WHO and many other countries in the investigation carried out to determine the origins of the pandemic, an investigation which has still not led to a definitive conclusion.

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