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Taiwan on alert for mycoplasma pneumoniae risk following China outbreak

11/26/2023 09:38 PM
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People wait to be picked outside a children's hospital in Beijing on Nov. 24, 2023. Photo: Reuters
People wait to be picked outside a children's hospital in Beijing on Nov. 24, 2023. Photo: Reuters

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a health alert Sunday instructing the medical community in Taiwan to be alert to the risk of mycoplasma pneumoniae spreading to the nation amid a surge in respiratory infections such as influenza and clusters of pneumonia among children in northern China.

According to recent World Health Organization (WHO) reports, northern provinces in China have reported a jump in influenza-like illnesses for five consecutive weeks since mid-October and the outbreaks worsened last week compared with the previous weeks.

Cases of influenza-like illness accounted for 6.2 percent of all reported cases at hospitals in northern China, representing a 2.5-fold increase over the same period during the previous three years, CDC Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said Sunday, citing relevant WHO reports.

Noting mycoplasma pneumoniae has become highly resistant to antibiotics in China, Lo told CNA that a mycoplasma epidemic usually reaches its peak in 2 to 3 months, and according to the information China provided to the WHO, the outbreaks of mycoplasma pneumoniae in China began in May this year.

After October, the nationwide increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases in China has been due to multiple circulating known pathogens, including respiratory syncytial virus, Lo said.

As such, whether or not the recent rise in respiratory illnesses in China is solely caused by the mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria still needs to be closely observed until spring next year, he added.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection is most common in children, although people of all ages are at risk of infection, according to Lo.

He pointed out that the possibility of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople who travel between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait spreading the bacteria is considered to be relatively low but the development of the epidemic in China requires further observation.

However, in response to the upsurge of respiratory illnesses in children in northern China, the CDC will continue to closely monitor the situation at home and abroad, Lo said.

The CDC has issued a notice to remind doctors to be on alert for cases of respiratory illness and to implement the "TOCC" mechanism. This involves rigorously inquiring and recording the travel history, occupation, contact history, and cluster history or other related information, to prevent cases of cluster infections in hospitals.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae is an "atypical" bacterium that causes upper respiratory tract infection and community acquired pneumonia.

(By Chen Chieh-ling and Evelyn Kao)

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A CNA Global View video report on the spread of the recent respiratory illness outbreak in China. (Footage: Lusa News Agency / in Chinese)
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