Wednesday, July 24, 2024

New COVID! Beijing hospitals overrun with respiratory infections post-COVID-19

China COVID-19 resumption

Hospitals in Beijing and the north of China are dealing with an increase in paediatric respiratory cases as the nation approaches its first winter season since loosening strict COVID-19 regulations over a year ago.

According to CNN reporting, Chinese official media, and social media, certain children’s hospitals in major cities throughout northern China had hundreds of patients waiting in line for hours to see physicians.

The average number of patients at Beijing Children’s Hospital is now above 7,000 per day, which an official told state media on Tuesday “far exceeds the hospital’s capacity.”

According to local state-run media, the main paediatric hospital in neighbouring Tianjin smashed a record on Saturday by receiving almost 13,000 youngsters in its outpatient and emergency departments.

A staff member at Beijing Friendship Hospital told CNN that it may take the whole day to see a paediatrician when the news organisation contacted them on Thursday to find out about appointment times.

There are a lot of children here right now. The staff person said, “Those who scheduled an emergency appointment yesterday still weren’t able to see the doctor this morning.

The primary causes of the outbreak, according to health officials in Beijing and other major northern Chinese cities, were common seasonal illnesses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as mycoplasma pneumonia, a bacterial infection that usually causes a mild infection and commonly affects children.

The increase in seasonal respiratory infections in the northern hemisphere, including the United States, where RSV is spreading at “unprecedented” rates among youngsters, coincides with the spike in cases in northern China.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO), citing a post from the open-source surveillance system ProMED, expressed concern about the situation in China on Wednesday and asked China to provide more information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and “reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children.”

However, the WHO said the data showed a rise in hospital admissions and outpatient consultations of children owing to mycoplasma pneumonia in May as well as frequent seasonal diseases RSV, adenovirus, and influenza virus since October after conferring with Chinese health and hospital authorities on Thursday.

“As observed in other countries, some of these increases are earlier in the season than historically experienced, but not unexpected given the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions,” the WHO said.

The agency said that Chinese officials had not detected any unusual or novel pathogens or unusual clinical presentations.
Despite the lack of evidence for a new virus, external experts monitoring the situation insisted that China disclose further information to the public regarding the current situation. 

CNN was informed by Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biomedical Sciences, that “we don’t think there is an unknown pathogen hidden somewhere.” “There isn’t any proof for that.”

The primary worry, according to epidemiologist Catherine Bennett of Deakin University in Australia, is whether the spike in paediatric pneumonia signals the emergence of a new pathogen or a new severity of the illness.

Bennett said, “As of yet, we have not received any reports of either,” stressing the need to keep an eye out for infection sources to rule out any worries.Crowded medical facilities can lead to inefficiencies and compromised patient care.

Chinese parents have been complaining on social media in recent weeks about the overcrowding in hospitals, where kids must wait hours to see a doctor before having to endure even longer wait times for an IV drip or blood test.

Since China’s primary care system is still in its infancy, most sick individuals go to hospitals or emergency rooms as their first port of call.
Peak seasons may result in overcrowding at certain facilities.

A picture that went viral on the Chinese social media site Weibo featured a hospital screen informing patients that there were over 700 people in line and that they would likely have to wait 13 hours.

Videos on social media revealed how crowded the corridors of a paediatric hospital connected to the Capital Institute of Paediatrics in Beijing were, to the point that some kids receiving intravenous drips sat on their parents’ laps as they lined the hallways on folding stools.

Parents are being advised by China’s national health authorities and hospital administrators to take their children to other health centres that provide general or primary care services for a diagnosis, rather than sending them straight to huge paediatric hospitals.
The National Health Commission (NHC) issued a warning on Thursday, directing parents to other institutions for triage due to the possibility of “long wait times and a high risk of cross-infection” at big hospitals.

The NHC stated in a statement that it has given “all localities” the go-ahead to improve its case management and treatment protocols, including spotting serious cases within the patient inflow.

Meanwhile, the city administration of Beijing reposted an item from official media that quoted a physician as saying that parents did not have to request IV fluids “as soon as a child has a fever.”

A study released by the WHO on Thursday indicates that patient loads exceeding hospital capacities have not been caused by Chinese authorities.

Hospital visits are surging during China’s first whole winter without the country’s “zero-COVID” regulations, which required people to wear face masks and keep tight social distance.

Last December, unexpected demonstrations against the tight lockdowns and other pandemic preparations led to a sudden loosening of the rules.

Because China has only provided limited public statistics, it is unknown if there has been an increase in respiratory diseases or severe instances among youngsters compared to pre-pandemic years.

According to Jin, a virologist at Hong Kong University, “during zero COVID, these (common respiratory) diseases would be underestimated (as people avoided hospitals), and because everyone was practicing some social distancing, the incidence was low.”
It is very typical that there will be a significant rise this year over the previous year. “However, it remains to be seen if there has been a significant increase compared to 2018 and 2019,” he said.

According to Jin, social factors could also be at work in this scenario since more parents are seeking medical attention because they are worried about their child’s health after the epidemic.

Since the pandemic coronavirus emerged in late 2019, illness outbreaks have received more attention. More openness is also demanded, notably from China, which is accused of obstructing inquiries into the virus’s beginnings and hiding early warning signs of its transmission.

Christine Jenkins, a professor of respiratory medicine at UNSW Sydney, explains that it is not surprising to see a spike in respiratory tract infections caused by viruses in children at this time of year. Experts have observed this occurrence globally for many decades around the start of winter.

She emphasized the importance of prompt reporting and monitoring, given the pandemic caused by a relatively new virus like the novel coronavirus and the potential for additional new viruses or mutations to cause respiratory tract illnesses.