China pneumonia outbreak: Centre monitoring situation, asks states to review healthcare preparedness

People wait for their rides outside a children's hospital in Beijing, China November 24, 2023. Photo: Reuters/Florence Lo

New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry has advised states to immediately review public health preparedness in view of recent reports indicating a surge in respiratory illness in children in northern China.

In a statement on Sunday, the ministry said it has decided to proactively review preparatory measures against respiratory illnesses as a matter of abundant caution.

"This is noted to be important in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases. The Government of India is closely monitoring the situation and indicated that there is no need for any alarm," it said.

In a letter to all states and Union territories, the Union health secretary has advised them to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness such as the availability of beds, drugs and vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators, and infection control practices.

The state authorities have been advised to implement the Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19', shared earlier this year, which provides for integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens presenting as cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI).

They have also been asked to ensure that the trends of ILI and SARI, particularly among children and adolescents, are closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP).

The data of ILI/SARI is required to be uploaded on the IDSP-IHIP portal.

The state authorities have been asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly children and adolescents, to the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories for testing for respiratory pathogens.

The cumulative effect of the implementation of these precautionary and proactive collaborative measures is expected to counter any potential situation and ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens.

Recently, information shared by the WHO has indicated an increase in respiratory illness in northern parts of China. This is predominantly attributed to usual causes such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumonia and SARS-CoV-2.

According to the WHO, the release of COVID-19 restrictions coinciding with the onset of the winter season in addition to the cyclical trend of respiratory illnesses such as mycoplasma pneumonia have led to this surge.

While the WHO has sought additional information from the Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment, the ministry said.

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