Should India be worried about rising cases of respiratory illness in China?

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A notable surge in respiratory illness in children in northern China in recent weeks has once again brought back the scary memories of the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when disturbing images started pouring in from Wuhan. Gradually, the world got to know about the dangers of the coronavirus, which wreaked havoc across nations by killing thousands.

Once again, the rising cases of respiratory illness in China have made people worried. Should India be worried about this surge? In an interaction with news agency ANI, Dr SK Kabra, (HoD Mother and Child Block, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, AIIMS) said that viral infections are common in winters and there is no possibility of another pandemic like COVID yet.

“The reports coming from China now show that there has been a sudden increase in respiratory infections between October and November and they have observed that it is more common in children. Mycoplasma has been seen. They have not seen any new or unusual viruses. There is no indication yet that this is a new organism and it is difficult to say whether it can cause a pandemic like COVID. This possibility is not there yet,” Dr SK Kabra told ANI.

He added that common viruses in the winter season have been seen in the reports coming from China.

“Now experts have discussed this and according to them, there could be 2-3 things due to which it has increased. Firstly, virus infection is more common in winter and the main ones are Influenza, Adenovirus and Mycoplasma. Till now, the same viruses are visible in the reports of the organisms spreading in China and there is nothing new. People are very worried because the pandemic has just passed whether a new virus has arrived,” SK Kabra said.

Dr Kabra also informed that it may be because of the strict lockdown in China that the cases of respiratory illness are increasing.”See, the lockdown in China was very strict. It was lifted in December last year and since then this is the first winter there. As far as we know about infection in children, every child under 5 years of age gets a viral infection 3-8 times a year and with each infection, he becomes immune to it. Then after the age of 5, the rate of infection reduces. So the children in China who are not able to come out of their houses due to lockdown, their immunity has not developed due to which they have become susceptible to the infection,” he added.”There is a hypothesis that the children who have not had this infection in 2-3 years during lockdown, the infection will now occur. If one child gets it, it will infect 10 more, due to which the cases will increase suddenly,” he asserted.

He further urged people to practice hygiene and use sanitizers at most.

“If a child has an infection, do not send him outside until he recovers. Generally, influenza lasts for a week. One can use a mask and follow social distancing. Everyone should also take care of hygiene, and use sanitizer. The phase that China is facing now, we have already faced it last year, so there is no problem. We are now more knowledgeable than before about how the pandemic is managed. The Ministry has told doctors to investigate if such cases are coming. If any abnormality is seen, then inform them so that appropriate action can be taken,” Dr SK Kabra said.

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