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China’s Respiratory Illness Outbreak Raises Alarms: Urgent Action Needed, Say Doctors

Government intervention needed
Health Agency: “Preparing for any potential situation”

A recent outbreak of Mycoplasma pneumonia, also known as childhood pneumonia, is spreading from China to neighboring countries.

In light of this, pediatricians in South Korea have urged the government to devise a response plan. At the same time, health authorities have expanded information sharing with China to understand the spread of the disease. However, based on the current spread trends, it is assessed that the spread is not an extraordinary situation.

Nevertheless, Taiwan advises older people and children with weak immunity to avoid traveling to China. Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) has requested an investigation in China.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is a bacterial pneumonia that primarily infects infants and young children. It is most commonly seen in children aged 5 to 9. If infected, symptoms typically include a fever over 38°C (100.4°F) and severe coughing with phlegm. The symptoms could last for about 3 to 4 weeks. The disease is known to be resistant to common antibiotics and antipyretics.

Treatment Challenges & Disease Categorization

Quinolone antibiotics are typically used to treat Mycoplasma pneumonia. Still, they can cause side effects such as cartilage deposition in children. Therefore, they are not commonly used by those under 18.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is categorized as a fourth-degree infectious disease in South Korea, characterized by cyclical outbreaks every 3 to 4 years. The incidence of this illness typically rises around September, coinciding with the onset of the autumn season. The cases then tend to decline after March as the weather warms up. Notably, there was a significant drop in the number of mycoplasma pneumonia cases following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This decline effectively ended the outbreak that had begun in 2019. It is likely influenced by the heightened health measures and changes in social behavior brought about by the pandemic.

Assessment by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA)


The Korean Association of Pediatric Hospitals has noted the need to review the Mycoplasma pneumonia management system. Still, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has assessed that this year’s outbreak is not severe.

The KDCA reports among the 218 medical institutions with over 200 beds that are part of the sample surveillance system, 210 of these facilities include the pediatric department. This inclusion is crucial for monitoring the occurrence of diseases like mycoplasma pneumonia, particularly in children.

Based on this data, it was found that 270 out of 280 patients (96.4%) hospitalized with acute bacterial respiratory infections during the 47th week (November 19-25) were infected with mycoplasma pneumonia.

Looking at the outbreak trend, the number of patients has been increasing from 60 during the week of August 27 to September 2 (35th week), with 173 in the 44th week (October 29 to November 4), 226 in the 45th week, 232 in the 46th week, and 270 in the 47th week.

Warning from Pediatric Hospitals

The Korean Association of Pediatric Hospitals has expressed criticism of the government’s handling of pediatric infectious diseases. On the 4th, the association issued a warning, emphasizing the rapid potential spread of such diseases, particularly in environments where group activities are unavoidable. They highlighted that although Mycoplasma pneumonia is not currently at an epidemic level, a failure in the initial response could lead to a rapid spread of the disease.

Furthermore, they criticized, “There is no sign of any government response to Mycoplasma from the health authorities, and the level of response is only advising personal hygiene at public health centers. While countries like India and Taiwan are making efforts such as advising against travel to China and taking precautions to prevent the entry of Mycoplasma into their countries, the Korean government appears to be standing by.”

By. Kim Hyun Jung

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