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Child pneumonia cases emerge in Europe as China battles wave of respiratory illness

A child wears a face mask after dismissal from a school in Beijing, China
Chinese authorities say they have no evidence of any new pathogens causing the pneumonia wave - MARK R CRISTINO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ireland and France are among several European countries to have recorded a sharp rise in child pneumonia cases, as China battles an unprecedented surge in the respiratory illness.

A rise in Mycoplasma pneumoniae, the bacteria that causes the infection, has been reported in Ireland, France, The Netherlands, and Denmark.

In Denmark and France, infections have surged to epidemic levels, with Denmark witnessing a three-fold increase in cases since October, totalling 541 cases as of last week.

Airfinity, a data analyst company, indicates that France is also grappling with epidemic-level infections.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has seen a 124 per cent increase compared to last year’s peak.

In Ireland, the jump is less dramatic with 15 Mycoplasma pneumoniae cases reported in children and teenagers, up by fourteen from the previous year.

A man using respirator for breathing is being carried to the ambulance vehicle by medical personnel, in Shanghai, China
In China, the cluster of infections, commonly known as ‘walking pneumonia’, has filled many hospitals - ALEX PLAVEVSKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In China, the cluster of infections, commonly known as ‘walking pneumonia’, has filled many hospitals and has been attributed to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions magnifying the surge in illness that normally accompanies the winter season.

The illness came into the spotlight last week when the WHO made an official request to China for more information about reports of undiagnosed pneumonia in children’s hospitals in Bejing, Liaoning, and other locations.

Chinese authorities have said they have no evidence of any new or “novel” pathogens causing the pneumonia wave, although internationally some have expressed doubts over the country’s transparency.

Nations across Asia, including India, Nepal, Taiwan, and Thailand increased surveillance and told healthcare workers to be vigilant for pneumonia cases.

The infection is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people and is more common among children than adults.

Most cases resolve without complications through a course of antibiotics, however, antibiotic resistance is a concern.

This is particularly troubling in Asia, where resistance rates to macrolide, a type of antibiotic used to treat pneumonia, have been as high as 90 per cent.

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