An unsettling number of respiratory cases have been reported in China, experts warn.
The world doesn’t need to be reminded of what happened the last time a cluster of respiratory illness cases popped up in China. Eventually, those illnesses would become what was known as the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world was disrupted from its usual rhythms for years to come. That doesn’t mean that anything along those lines is coming up as a result of the illnesses that have recently been spotted in China, but it does mean that everyone will be paying particularly close attention.
As a result of what happened just a few years ago, the World Health Organization is monitoring the situation in China to make sure another widespread threat is not developing. While that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment, no chances will be taken in the process of evaluating the spread of cases and what types of illnesses are being found.
Causing attention to be turned toward China have been reports of undiagnosed pneumonia clusters in the northern regions of the country. Particularly concerning is the fact that those reports point to largely children being affected. With at least reason to pay attention, scientists are monitoring the situation but don’t seem to think that there is any particularly notable risk of a larger issue at this time.
For their part, Chinese health officials are denying that any unusual or novel diseases have been detected. Respiratory illnesses are always in circulation around the world at any time, so clusters of people getting sick don’t necessarily say anything about a new disease that would have the potential to turn into a pandemic event of any scale. With any luck, the attention that is being paid will be preventive and not essential, and the clusters will fade soon enough.
According to China, the jump in cases of respiratory disease can be accounted for by the change in restrictions that have recently been enacted in the country. China has held onto various COVID-19 restrictions longer than most other places in the world, and as they are being lifted, it seems that there may be some connection to the leap in respiratory sickness that has been seen. Similar jumps in other countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have taken place when they have cut back on their restrictions, as well.
Overall, there aren’t the concerning markers to be seen that might be expected if the signs of another pandemic were in place. For example, hospitals in China are at normal levels for the most part, with some exceptions in northern China where some hospitals have been pushed a little beyond typical occupancy. With that said, new strains of viruses do commonly start with clusters of respiratory illness, so it only makes sense to be more cautious than casual. That doesn’t mean that this situation is going to escalate, but it’s smart for all involved to pay close attention and take intervening action, if needed.