"Chinese" pneumonia has reached Europe - What 3 Greek professors say

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The outbreak of respiratory viruses is after the Chinese lifted (very lately) coronavirus restrictions or the start of another epidemic? Questions about what is happening in China and what the risk is worldwide are mounting, as are cases of an alarming outbreak of respiratory illnesses in children and hospitalisations. However, the answers are not given quickly or effortlessly by the scientists.

Everyone seems to be keeping a vigilant attitude. At the same time, gradually, the cases of pneumonia began to increase in the USA and Europe. Still, the psychologically negative reaction is gaining ground because it was around the same time in 2019 that reports of mysterious pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan gradually increased, culminating in the coronavirus outbreak in January 2020.

The US, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden are on the current short list of countries where cases of pneumonia in children are on the rise and scientific and health authorities are gathering data on the viruses that cause them. In fact, on Friday, the ECDC called on European countries to monitor all cases of pneumonia epidemiologically.

According to data the WHO announced it received from the Chinese authorities at its request, there has been an upward trend in pediatric outpatient visits and hospitalisations for mycoplasma pneumonia since last May and for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus and flu since October.


The Agency said that so far, no unusual or new pathogens have been identified in the data provided by China. However, the lack of transparency that characterised China's and WHO's initial reports on the coronavirus pandemic in the recent past also overshadows the current epidemiological development.

"The truth is that China has a bad record in officially reported data. Based on what the authorities give to the WHO and if we accept that they are reliable, it is not a coronavirus, its variant, or a new virus. Since last year, the viruses responsible for children's pneumonia have been known in Western countries: respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, adenoviruses, and mycoplasma. In other words, the viruses that caused last winter's wave of infections in the children's population in Western countries, immediately after the lifting of the restrictive measures", says Professor of Pulmonology of the University of Thessaly Konstantinos Gourgoulianis to Proto Thema.

What preschool and school-age children in the US and Europe experienced last winter, finding themselves unprotected after the protective frameworks of lockdowns, seems to be happening in the previous two months in Asian countries.

"Their immune system was unprepared, which was immediately reflected in the return to normality, which was delayed by a year. It is considered predictable at first sight that this situation also arose in China, that in the first winter without measures, it would face an increase in respiratory diseases. The theory of the immune gap in the child population is probably confirmed. Based on what has been announced, our concern concerns mycoplasma", says the professor of Pulmonology at the University of Crete, Nikos Tzanakis.

He explains that the known viruses, RSV, adenoviruses and influenza, have been announced. But mycoplasma also has a precedent in China. It is a pathogen that causes pneumonia and is called atypical or ambulatory pneumonia because it has non-specific symptoms, such as low-grade fever, fatigue and headache.

"It is generally considered a mild pneumonia, which does not require hospitalisation. The fact that cases are reported in more areas supports the normality of the phenomenon. However, mycoplasma is highly resistant to antibiotics in China, which is a problem," comments Mr. Tzanakis.

The worst-case scenario is that the mycoplasma travels outside China, but the problem will be the lack of weapons to deal with it. "Unfortunately, it has been proven that mycoplasma has a resistance of up to 90% to the available drugs," notes Emeritus Professor of Pediatric Pulmonology Ioannis Tsanakas.

He considers it positive that the wave of infections has not affected people from other age groups.

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