Chinese hospitals ‘overwhelmed with sick children’ after surge in respiratory illness

Mycoplasma pneumonia tends to spread in settings such as schools, dormitories and military barracks, with common symptoms including cough, sore throat, fever and headache. Most people have mild or no symptoms, while a “small subset” may develop severe pneumonia, Jin said.

“It’s not like Covid, it’s not like flu, and there are very effective antibiotics,” he said.

But China has reported limited data so far, Jin said, making it difficult to know the full extent of the outbreak of various respiratory illnesses.

“They need to tell the general public whether this is extremely high everywhere or just in one place,” he said.

Compared with pre-pandemic years, China’s current levels of respiratory disease may not be that unusual, Jin said, but more people may be going to hospitals “because they don’t know and because they are panicking.”

Social media users visiting hospitals in Beijing, where a cold snap is expected to send temperatures well below zero by Friday, have posted photos in recent days of long lines and high ticket numbers, with some saying they were told to come back the next day.

“Most people are rather sensitive to pneumonia and epidemic infections after Covid,” said Zhang Li, a doctor in the city of Dalian, in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, whose 14-year-old daughter recently recovered from mycoplasma pneumonia. “Parents might get anxious if their children don’t get better after one or two days.”

She said she had initially treated her daughter at home, but took her to the hospital when her symptoms persisted. “Other parents told me about their children’s pneumonia and their situations when we were chatting, so I became a little more cautious,” Zhang said.

Further pressure is created by the nature of the Chinese health care system, where it is common for people with mild illnesses to go straight to a hospital rather than a doctor’s office.

“Most people with mycoplasma infection should just stay home,” Jin said.

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