27 Nov 2023

Respiratory illness in China: Centre advises States/UTs to review public health and hospital preparedness measures

In view of the recent reports indicating a surge in respiratory illness in children in northern China in the recent weeks, the Union Health Ministry has proactively decided to review the preparedness measures against respiratory illnesses, as a matter of abundant caution. 

The measure has been taken in view of the ongoing influenza and winter season that results in an increase in respiratory illness cases. Government of India is closely monitoring the situation, and indicated that there is no need for any alarm.

In a letter by Union Health Secretary to States and UTs, they have been advised to immediately review public health and hospital preparedness measures viz. availability of hospital beds, drugs & vaccines for influenza, medical oxygen, antibiotics, personal protective equipment,testing kits and reagents, functionality of oxygen plants and ventilators, infection control practices in health facilities, at a senior level.

All States and Union Territories have been advised to implement ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in the context of COVID-19’. This means integrated surveillance of influenza like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI). 

States and UTs have also been asked to ensure that the trends of ILI/SARI should be closely monitored by the district and state surveillance units of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), particularly of children and adolescents. 

Measures aim to counter any potential situation

States have also been asked to send nasal and throat swab samples of patients with SARI, particularly of children and adolescents, to Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL’s) located in the states for testing for respiratory pathogens. The cumulative effect of implementation of these precautionary and proactive collaborative measures is expected to counter any potential situation and ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens.

Recently, information shared by WHO has indicated an increase in respiratory illness in northern parts of China. This is predominantly attributed to usual causes like Influenza, Mycoplasma pneumonia, SARS-CoV-2 etc. 

As per WHO, the release of Covid-19 restrictions coinciding with the onset of winter season in addition to cyclical trend of respiratory illnesses such as Mycoplasma pneumonia have led to this surge. While WHO has sought additional information from Chinese authorities, it is assessed that there is no cause for any alarm at the moment.

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