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Vaccinations still vital to curb illness spread

By LI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-04 09:41
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Children receive treatment at the PLA Strategic Support Force's Characteristic Medical Center in Beijing. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/China Daily]

Known pathogens behind current spate of respiratory infections in parts of nation

The recent surge of respiratory illnesses in China is fueled by known pathogens, and vaccination efforts are still vital to stem the spread, medical experts said on Saturday.

Mi Feng, National Health Commission spokesman, said the clusters were all caused by recognized pathogens, and medical workers are dealing with them by using mature treatment plans.

"Diseases induced by unknown viruses and bacteria have not been detected yet," he told a news conference in Beijing.

Mi said vaccinations must be stepped up for vulnerable groups such as older adults and children to lower the risk of infection. He said their work priorities would be to increase the supply of hospital beds, streamline the outpatient reception process and bolster the supply of online medical services to avoid large gatherings in hospitals.

The spokesman urged the public to take personal precautions such as wearing masks, washing hands and increasing room ventilation.

A co-circulation of infections including mycoplasma pneumonia, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, has swept across many regions in recent weeks as temperatures dropped.

World Health Organization experts attributed the rise to a phenomenon known as "immunity gap", which has been observed across the globe after countries eased COVID-19 restrictions. An immunity gap was caused by a dramatic reduction in the circulation of viruses and bacteria due to strict COVID precautions, which reduced children's immunological defenses against cold-causing viruses.

Speaking at the event, Wang Dayan, a flu expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said infections currently circulating in the country, such as flu, have corresponding types of vaccines proven to be safe and effective in clinical settings.

Wang encouraged people aged 6 months and above to get flu vaccines, especially older people and those with chronic diseases. She said it's never too late to get a flu jab, as apart from preventing infections, inoculation can also help ease symptoms.

"Practice at home and abroad has proved that the use of vaccines is one of the most cost-effective means of prevention," she said.

Children are among the most affected by this outbreak. Authorities have encouraged patients with mild symptoms to recover at home while seeking treatment from online hospitals to avoid large gatherings and cross-infections.

Yang Jinghua, a pediatrician from Guangdong province, said parents caring for sick children at home should pay attention to ventilation and avoid smoking indoors.

Experts also suggested treating children with a plan that combines Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western remedies.

Liu Qingquan, president of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said the hybrid treatment plan works well for child patients, including those with more severe symptoms such as pneumonia.

"TCM helps shorten the duration of fever, prevents mild conditions from worsening and does not have the side effect of increasing pathogenic drug resistance," he said.

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