Chinas mystery pneumonia – hazmat-clad workers and fears its in Europe

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    Cases of a "mystery pneumonia" are on the rise in China, with boffins now concerned the disease could spread further afield.

    Hospitals are becoming "overwhelmed with sick children" as the disease – which can be fatal – spreads. An employee from the Beijing Friendship Hospital's paediatrics department said even emergency cases had to wait 24 hours to be seen.

    Meanwhile healthcare workers in Hazmat suits have been pictured sanitising schools in a bid to prevent more cases. An eerie clip posted to social media by New York-based blogger Jennifer Zeng showed officials patrolling abandoned corridors and classrooms spraying disinfectant.

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    Officials in Beijing have said the surging numbers of sickly schoolchildren is not down to a new virus and blamed seasonal illnesses for the concerning scenes, the Daily Star previously reported. However, UK officials are keeping an "open mind" about the potential cause of the disease.

    Professor Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: "The World Health Organisation has received an official response from China following its request for detailed information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children. We need to keep an open mind about the cause of any increased reporting of clusters of disease including of this illness in Chinese children.

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    "UKHSA is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work with international partners to assess the emerging information as it becomes available."

    A similar illness has also been detected in the Netherlands with cases soaring since August, mostly affecting children aged five to 14. Data from the western European nation shows rates are nearly twice as high as last year's peak and medical experts worry these could climb even further.

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    The Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) warned an unusually lofty number patients have been visiting their GP with pneumonia. Experts aren't sure what's behind the uptick but reckon the disease could be separate from the one found in China, where rates first began to soar this month.

    Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at Reading University, told MailOnline: "It could be a local seasonal epidemic that just happens to be co-incident with the cases in China. Pneumonia can have many causes so I doubt this can be analysed properly until the underlying infection(s) is defined."

    Pneumonia sufferers typically recover within two weeks, although the illness can be fatal to people from particularly vulnerable groups such as children and over-65s. Symptoms of the disease are similar to other illnesses such as Covid, colds and flu, with the infection often causing a cough, fever, shortness of breath and fatigue.

    Other symptoms can include loss of appetite, low energy, sharp, stabbing chest pains and nausea and vomiting – especially in young children.

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    • China
    • World Health Organisation
    • Health issues

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