COVID-like virus scare in China: Kerala sounds alert

Representational Image: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Health Department has advised caution across the state after China confirmed the outbreak of a mysterious virus resulting in a surge in respiratory illnesses, especially among children.

The sudden surge in pneumonia cases in China was one of the topics that came up for discussion during the meeting held to review the infectious diseases in the state on Friday. Earlier, when the COVID-19 outbreak from China spread across the world, Kerala confirmed the first case in India.

“A high vigil should be observed across the state in this background,” suggested Health Minister Veena George, who attended the meeting online.

Those who travelled back from China and their children will be monitored closely. Due to frequent heavy rains, the number of cases of viral pneumonia among children has been surging across the state. Those seeking treatment will be specifically asked whether they have come in contact with anyone returning from China, officials said.

WHO keeps a close watch

The World Health Organization (WHO) is yet to issue any trade or travel restrictions in the wake of the sudden surge in mysterious pneumonia cases among children in China. However, the WHO has been closely monitoring the situation and advised the public to exercise caution. Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), a surveillance system that conducts global reporting of infectious disease outbreaks, identified the outbreak of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in Northern China. The same entity had first reported COVID-19 out break as well. However, the Chinese authorities, while responding to WHO’s call for additional information, attributed the rise in respiratory illness cases to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. 

An unusual number of children in Northern China were admitted to hospitals with respiratory illnesses during the first week of October. On November 13, China’s National Health Commission convened a press conference to assess the situation. Following this, the WHO has prodded China for additional information, including the cause of the mysterious pneumonia outbreak and the results of tests held so far.

“A cold wave is sweeping across Northern China now. This will lead to a rise in pneumonia cases. The Chinese authorities are saying that there is also a spike in the cases of children affected by illnesses like Influenza, Mycoplasma pneumonia (found commonly in children), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). We shouldn’t get alarmed by what is being spread via social media. The WHO will provide accurate data,” said Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman, IMA National Covid Taskforce.

No need for concern, says Union Health Ministry

Meanwhile, the Union Health Ministry has informed that it is seriously monitoring the changes in the health situation in China arising from the reported rise in respiratory diseases in Northern China. Respiratory diseases and avian flu (H9H2-Avian Influenza) are mostly reported from there. India doesn’t face any risks in the cases of both diseases, the Health Ministry said.

There is no need to be concerned about the rise in cases of pneumonia in children, the ministry said, adding that there is no presence of unusual disease-causing pathogens here.

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