Children monitored for respiratory illnesses amid China scare

Children monitored for respiratory illnesses amid China scare

The Public Health Ministry has been monitoring clusters of respiratory illnesses in children in northern China as the World Health Organization (WHO) is keeping an eye on the mounting number of cases.

Public Health Minister Dr Cholnan Srikaew said yesterday this appeared to be a normal occurrence in China during the cold season. It has not yet impacted Thailand.

Dr Cholnan said Thailand also experiences a similar pattern where cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) surge during the cool season. The ministry is following the virus situation closely, said the minister.

However, as a precaution against the virus spreading rapidly along the lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, the minister has ordered close tabs be kept on the situation. Related agencies were also watching out for international arrivals who were unwell.

Dr Cholnan said most visitors arriving at airports were adults in good health. Most would have aborted their trip if they came down with an illness, he said. The respiratory ailment in China is mostly affecting children.

"There's no need yet to set up surveillance and screening of passengers at airports. But we're putting our guard up," he said.

The minister added no visitors should be made to feel they are being singled out for monitoring. His remark came as visitors from China have not bounced back to pre-Covid levels.

On the side of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), its deputy director-general, Dr Sophon Iamsirithaworn, said the DDC emailed the WHO on Nov 23 seeking further details on the spread of the respiratory illness in China.

However, no fatalities were reported from the cluster, and no unusual patterns of transmission among children have been detected.

On Nov 22, the WHO made an official request to China for detailed information on the situation and reported clusters of pneumonia among children.

Citing a report on Nov 13 by China's National Health Commission on a spike in the number of such cases, the Chinese authorities attributed the increase to the lifting of Covid-19 curbs and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection which typically affects younger children), RSV, and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid).

Authorities stressed the need for enhanced surveillance in healthcare facilities and community settings, as well as strengthening the capacity of the health system to manage patients, according to the WHO.

On Nov 22, the WHO requested additional epidemiological and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism.

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