A MYSTERIOUS pneumonia-like illness overwhelming hospitals in China could be sweeping Europe, data suggests.
Children and their parents wait at a children’s hospital in Beijing[/caption]
Children hooked up to IVs on a hospital floor in Beijing[/caption]
There were 103 pneumonia cases in every 100,000 youngsters aged five to 14 in the week to November 19 in the country.
This was up 24 per cent from the 83 recorded in the seven days before, data from the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) shows.
It is also significantly above the weekly average during last year’s peak flu season, which saw 58 kids fall ill.
Cases in under-fours were also up from 124 to 145 per 100,000 in the same period.
A NIVEL spokesperson said: “There are a striking number of children and young people with pneumonia.”
The surge mirrors events unfolding in China, where an unspecified virus is infecting hundreds of children.
A similar situation is developing almost 500 miles away in Liaoning.
Doctors are said to be receiving thousands of phone calls a day, and schools have been evacuated to curb the spread.
This, and rising case numbers in the Netherlands, has sparked fears other countries, including the UK, could be impacted over Christmas.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it is “closely monitoring” the situation.
Chief executive Professor Dame Jenny Harries said: “We need to keep an open mind about the cause of any increased reporting of clusters of disease including of this illness in Chinese children.
“UKHSA is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work with international partners to assess the emerging information as it becomes available.”
Edward Liu, an infectious diseases specialist at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, told Fox News Digital said respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu could be to blame for the “sudden surge”.
Covid and Mycoplasma pneumoniae could also play a role, it is understood.
“I think people are worried about new respiratory infections showing up, even in other countries, as we have found out how quickly a respiratory virus can spread internationally,” Dr Liu said.
“No one wants another pandemic.”
But novel infections aren’t easily detected in mainstream hospitals so it “makes sense for the WHO to assist China and the Netherlands in determining the cause of these respiratory infections”, the doctor continued.
The number of children aged five to 14 being diagnosed with pneumonia is on the rise[/caption]
Cases are also up in children under the age of four, but not to pre-pandemic levels[/caption]
The Netherlands has been reporting higher-than-normal cases of flu, Covid and RSV, which can all cause pneumonia.
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at Reading University, told MailOnline: “It could be a local seasonal epidemic that just happens to coincide with the cases in China.
“Pneumonia can have many causes so I doubt this can be analysed properly until the underlying infection(s) is defined.”
Tom Peacock, from Imperial College London, added: “I suspect it may end up being something more mundane or a combination of things – say Covid, flu, RSV.”
Officials first reported an increase in “influenza-like illness” in China in mid-October, which was put down to the lifting of tight lockdown restrictions that helped to stifle bugs.
The WHO made an official request for “detailed” information last week as cases continued to rise.
ProMed – a system that monitors global disease outbreaks and was one of the first groups to identify the dangers of coronavirus – issued a warning on November 22.
Masks and social distancing have since been reinstated in a chilling echo of 2020.
Francois Balloux, from University College London, said: “Since China experienced a far longer and harsher lockdown than essentially any other country on Earth, it was anticipated that those ‘lockdown exit’ waves could be substantial.”
More people die from pneumonia in the UK than anywhere in Europe.
Most are elderly, but the lung condition can be serious in children too.
Around 700 kids get it in the UK each year and they may have a cold or flu first, according to the charity Asthma + Lung.
Dr Simon Theobalds, GP at Pall Mall Medical, said: “Pneumonia is an inflammatory lung condition impacting the air sacs and is frequently triggered by bacterial, viral or other microbial infections.
“It’s crucial to be vigilant for specific signs that distinguish it from other childhood viruses.
“While symptoms may overlap, pay attention to persistent high fever, rapid breathing and chest retractions.
“Keep an eye out for symptoms like a cough, chest pain and difficulty breathing.”
“If the symptoms persist and escalate, seek urgent medical attention,” Dr Theobalds said.
“Healthcare professionals can perform necessary tests such as blood tests and X-rays to determine an appropriate course of treatment.”
A timely diagnosis and antibiotics can improve the chances of recovery, the expert added.
“Fast medical attention can manage most cases,” he said.
“The population need not live in constant fear, as pneumonia is treatable and measures, such as vaccinations can significantly reduce risk.”
Families wearing masks in a hospital waiting area in Beijing[/caption]
Children receive IV drips on the stairs at a children’s hospital in Beijing[/caption]
Students are dismissed from a school in Beijing amid a rise in respiratory illness cases[/caption]
A man wearing a respirator is wheeled by medical staff in Shanghai[/caption]
Masked hospital-goers in the car park outside a children’s hospital in Beijing[/caption]
People wait for their rides outside a children’s hospital in Beijing[/caption]
Children in camping carts waiting to be picked up from A&E in Beijing[/caption]
What is pneumonia and what are the symptoms?
PNEUMONIA is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by an infection.
This includes Covid, flu and RSV.
The most common symptoms include:
- A cough – you may cough up yellow or green mucus (phlegm)
- Shortness of breath
- A high temperature
- Chest pain
- An aching body
- Feeling very tired
- Loss of appetite
- Making wheezing noises when you breathe – babies may also make grunting noises
- Feeling confused – this is common in older people
Most people get better in two to four weeks, but babies, older people, and those with heart or lung conditions are at risk of becoming seriously ill and requiring hospital treatment.
If you have pneumonia, you should:
- Rest until you feel better
- Avoid contact with other people
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to provide pain relief or a fever
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough
- Dispose of used tissues quickly
- Wash your hands regularly with water and soap