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Central Government Urges States to Review Health Preparedness Amid Surge in Mysterious Pneumonia Cases in China

Central Government Urges States to Review Health Preparedness Amid Surge in Mysterious Pneumonia Cases in China

Today, the central government issued a directive urging state governments and Union Territories (UTs) to conduct an immediate review of public health and hospital preparedness. This precautionary measure comes in response to a sudden increase in pneumonia cases in China, stemming from a mysterious outbreak.

Monitoring Situation

The Union Health Secretary, in a letter to states and UTs, emphasized the need for a comprehensive review of medical infrastructure, encompassing hospital beds, drugs, vaccines, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment, testing kits, reagents, oxygen plants, ventilators, and infection control practices. The government, however, stressed that there is “no cause for any alarm at the moment” and assured that the situation is under close scrutiny.

Specific Health Measures to be Taken

The release from the Union Health Ministry disclosed that the states and UTs are advised to adhere to the ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of Covid-19.’ These guidelines, shared earlier this year, focus on integrated surveillance of respiratory pathogens manifested as influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI).
States and UTs are instructed to closely monitor the trends of ILI and SARI, especially in children and adolescents. The Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) at both district and state levels plays a vital role in monitoring these trends. Data related to ILI/SARI cases should be promptly uploaded on the IDSP-IHIP portal, particularly from public health institutions and medical college hospitals.
To enhance surveillance, state governments are directed to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly children and adolescents, to Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDLs) within their respective states for testing respiratory pathogens. This collaborative effort aims to strengthen the diagnostic capabilities and early identification of potential health threats.

Proactive Measures in Response to China’s Situation

The Union Health Ministry, on Friday, affirmed that it is closely monitoring the surge in pneumonia cases resulting from a mysterious outbreak in China. It assured that India is well-prepared to handle any emergency that may arise from this evolving situation. The Health Ministry highlighted its proactive approach in dealing with potential health crises.
Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission (NHC) reported on November 13 that the increase in respiratory illnesses was attributed to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, alongside the circulation of known pathogens like influenza and common bacterial infections, typically affecting younger children.
International disease surveillance platforms, including ProMed, issued alerts regarding undiagnosed pneumonia cases affecting children. The World Health Organization (WHO) has sought detailed information from China, seeking clarification on the surge in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children. In other words, ProMed, an international disease surveillance platform, issued an alert over undiagnosed pneumonia affecting children on Tuesday. WHO has requested detailed information from China on the increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children.

What exactly is happening?

There has been a spike in reported incidents of respiratory illnesses in China. First reported by China’s National Health Commission on November 13 in a press conference, the illnesses have caused a surge in hospitalisations, with many hospitals warning of long waits. The situation came into the spotlight this week when the WHO asked China for more information, citing a report by the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED) on clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children.

Where is this spike in pneumonia cases occurring?

Infections have proliferated across China’s north-eastern regions, with Beijing and Liaoning, 800 km apart, being two major hubs. “One major hospital in Beijing has reported that on average every day, they are seeing about 1,200 patients enter their emergency room,” Al Jazeera reported on Thursday.

Way Forward: Collaborative Measures for Citizen Safety

In light of the mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China, the central government’s advisory emphasizes collaborative and proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens. The call for an immediate review of health preparedness underscores the government’s commitment to addressing potential health threats through vigilant monitoring and strategic response. The synergy between the central and state governments, along with adherence to established guidelines, is considered crucial to counter any emerging situation effectively.

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