Respiratory Illnesses in China Not Caused by New Virus, CDC Director Testifies

FRIDAY, Dec. 1, 2023 (Healthday News) -- In testimony provided Thursday to members of Congress, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a surge in respiratory illnesses in China is not being fueled by a new virus.

Instead, the spike can be linked to existing viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19, the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Mycoplasma pneumonia, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen testified.

Her assessment mirrors the explanation offered by Chinese authorities and reported by the World Health Organization.

"But they are seeing an upsurge. We do have an office, the CDC does, in China,” she testified, NBC News reported. “And our officials have been in touch with our counterparts to ensure that we’re understanding the situation there.”

The surge is concentrated in northern China, she added, where hospitals have been flooded with sick children.

Since mid-October, that region has reported an increase in influenza-like illness compared to the same period in the previous three years, WHO has reported.

The United Nations health agency has asked China to provide more information about the surge in respiratory illnesses, NBC News reported. Both the Chinese government and WHO have faced criticism over a lack of transparency in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Chinese officials insist the lifting of the strictest pandemic restrictions late last year has fueled the surge in illnesses, NBC News reported. Such a surge has been seen in other countries that have lifted strict COVID restrictions, including Australia and New Zealand.

Health officials in China say they are working to increase the availability of health care providers and boost the supply of medicine, while advising parents of children with mild cases to avoid going to hospitals because of long wait times and the risk of more infections, NBC News reported.

More information

Visit the CDC for more on respiratory viruses.


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