Each week, OMRF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Judith James opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
I’ve heard reports about a surge in cases of respiratory illness in China. Do we need to worry about another novel virus like when Covid emerged?
Dr. James Prescribes
Since late spring, China has been experiencing an increase in respiratory illnesses in children. In recent weeks, accounts from numerous sources have reported that those cases in children have spiked further, prompting fears of the emergence of a new respiratory illness.
In the past, China has come under criticism for a lack of transparency in similar situations, most notably the SARS outbreak of 2003 and the early days of the Covid pandemic in 2019-20.
But this time, when the World Health Organization requested information about the current surge, China provided it in one day. And that data, said the WHO, shows no evidence of any novel or unusual pathogens.
Rather, the data, which included lab results from infected children, indicated that the rise in cases stemmed from known viruses like influenza, as well as known bacteria such as mycoplasma pneumoniae, which usually cause mild illness.
The WHO said that while the increased infections were earlier in the season than is typical, they were not unexpected, as this will be the first winter since China lifted its coronavirus restrictions. Other countries, like the U.S. last year, experienced similar surges in respiratory illnesses following the end of Covid precautions.
While it’s wise to stay aware of emerging health threats, at least from what we know now, the recent news from China should not cause alarm.
Do you have a health query for Dr. James? Email email@example.com and your question may be answered in a future column!