This mysterious illness, which has been causing high fever and lung inflammation in children, has left health professionals puzzled due to its unique symptom profile, which lacks common respiratory symptoms such as coughing. As a result, this illness has been dubbed as "undiagnosed pneumonia."
The Daily Mail reports that this peculiar set of symptoms has left health professionals grappling to understand and categorize this new disease. The severity of the outbreak has been highlighted by local news outlets and ProMed, a global surveillance system that monitors infectious disease outbreaks.
In a statement released on Tuesday, ProMed stated, "With the outbreak of pneumonia in China, children’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other places were overwhelmed with sick children, and schools and classes were on the verge of suspension. Parents questioned whether the authorities were covering up the epidemic."
The statement further detailed the situation, "In the early morning, Beijing Children’s Hospital was still overcrowded with parents and children whose children had pneumonia and came to seek treatment. Mr. [W], a Beijing citizen: 'Many, many are hospitalized. They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature (fever) and many develop pulmonary nodules.'"
The situation in Liaoning Province is equally alarming. Dalian Children’s Hospital is filled with sick children receiving intravenous drips. Long queues of patients are also seen at traditional Chinese medicine hospitals and central hospitals. A staff member of Dalian Central Hospital said, "Patients have to wait in line for 2 hours, and we are all in the emergency department and there are no general outpatient clinics."
The illness has also led to the cancellation of some school classes. Not only are all students sick, but teachers are also infected with pneumonia. Mr. [W], a Beijing citizen, stated, "Now you are not allowed to report to school. If you have any symptoms such as fever, cold, cough and then you are hospitalized, you can ask for leave…"
Since China abandoned the “zero” policy at the beginning of the year , epidemics such as influenza, mycoplasma, and bronchopneumonia have broken out intermittently.
In the editor’s note, Promed wrote, “This report suggests a widespread outbreak of an undiagnosed respiratory illness in several areas in China as Beijing and Liaoning are almost 800 km apart. It is not at all clear when this outbreak started as it would be unusual for so many children to be affected so quickly. The report does not say that any adults were affected suggesting some exposure at the schools. ProMED awaits more definitive information about the etiology and scope of this concerning illness in China. It is too early to project whether this could be another pandemic but as a wise influenza virologist once said to me 'The pandemic clock is ticking, we just do not know what time it is.'"
The Daily Mail has drawn parallels between the current situation and the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, stirring concerns among global scientists. In January 2020, the world was gripped by fear following the circulation of videos from China showing people collapsing on the streets due to an unidentified illness, which was later identified as COVID-19. However, it was later clarified that not everyone infected with COVID-19 experienced such extreme symptoms.
These alarming reports from communist China have been accused of exaggerating the typical symptoms of COVID-19 to create mass hysteria, as collapsing in the streets has not been widely documented as a common occurrence among those infected with the virus.