Epidemic fears as child pneumonia cases surge after China outbreak

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Cases of pneumonia in children are rising in Europe as a second country reports an uptick in the deadly respitory disease.

The Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) has reported that 80 out of every 100,000 children in the country between ages five and 14 came down with pneumonia last week.

It comes after cases of the disease have surged in China, with reports emerging last week that children’s hospitals in Beijing and have been overrun by children with pneumonia.

The outbreak in the Netherlands is the biggest outbreak recorded by NIVEL in recent years.


In recent NIVEL records, pneumonia cases were most common at the peak of the 2022 flu season, with 60 recorded cases for every 100,000 children in the same age group.

Neither NIVEL nor the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands have given an explanation as to why pneumonia cases were increasing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that common winter infections — rather than any new pathogens — are behind the spike in hospitalisations in China.

China’s health authorities have linked the surge in hospitalizations since October to common pathogens like adenoviruses, influenza virus, and RSV.

These pathogens typically induce mild, cold-like symptoms. Nonetheless, the rise in pediatric admissions since May, especially in northern cities like Beijing, is predominantly attributable to Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae infects the lungs and is a frequent cause of “walking pneumonia”, which typically only has mild symptoms that don’t necessitate bed rest or hospitalization.

China is going in to its first winter without any COVID-19 restrictions, which some have attributed to the spike in illnesses.

However, the Netherlands has not had restrictions in place for some time.

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