Mysterious Child Pneumonia Outbreak Grips China

Mysterious Child Pneumonia Outbreak Grips China
Children receive a drip at a children's hospital in Beijing on Nov. 23, 2023. The World Health Organization has asked China for more data on a respiratory illness spreading in the north of the country. (JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)
Eva Fu
News Analysis

How bad is the pediatric pneumonia outbreak in China?

If you ask Chinese authorities, the answer would be that you shouldn’t be too worried.

Beijing has told the World Health Organization that there are no “unusual or new pathogens” or clinical symptoms.

Some of the Chinese media reports have described the illness as “preventable and controllable”—you might recall the same phrase being used back in early 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread in Wuhan.

Parents with children suffering from respiratory diseases line up at a children's hospital in Chongqing, China, on Nov. 23, 2023. (CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Parents with children suffering from respiratory diseases line up at a children's hospital in Chongqing, China, on Nov. 23, 2023. (CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Whatever the case, the concerns from Chinese parents are real.

Families are waiting in long queues at Chinese hospitals for hours so that they could see a doctor. Many classes get suspended because too many children are sick.

“Everyone in the class is coughing—you can’t even hear what the teacher is saying,” a man with the surname Chen told The Epoch Times, recounting what he heard from his school-aged daughter from Beijing.

People have had to wait early in the morning to get a placement number at hospitals, and some health workers said they have to do the same. A number in the 1,000s isn’t uncommon. The wait time is so long that some people bring chairs and tents, and hold IV drips for their children during the process.

While the WHO is seeking more information from the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese regime’s coverup is being noted by a number of U.S. lawmakers.

“We have no ability to trust the Chinese,” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), told The Epoch Times’ sister outlet NTD on Nov. 30.

He had signed a letter asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the outbreak in China.

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), a practicing surgeon, also said he believes “China’s going to do everything possible so that they don’t look like they’re the genesis of another pandemic.”

“I don’t trust anything the Chinese say—not a word,” he told NTD. “You get burned once, you don’t get burned again.”

A number of Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have called for a travel ban.

“A ban on travel now could save our country from death, lockdowns, mandates, and further outbreaks later,” they wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden.

No travel ban is being planned for the moment.

Asked if the State Department supports a travel ban, spokesperson Matthew Miller said they will “continue to monitor this situation closely and provide important updates should the situation change.”

“At this point the CDC has said publicly it does not have any evidence that it’s a novel pathogen,” he said in response to a question from The Epoch Times during a press briefing.

Chinese authorities seem to be using the same strategy they used three years ago to convince the public that the outbreak isn’t very severe.

There has been a lot of emphasis on the effect of flu and other contagions spreading around this time that could have contributed to the clusters of outbreaks; mycoplasma pneumonia is another cause cited.

But Sean Lin, a former lab director at the viral diseases branch of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, isn’t happy with that explanation. Respiratory disease seasons in the past hadn’t reached such a scale as it has now.

A whistleblower close to the top Chinese leadership told The Epoch Times that the Chinese communist leader Xi Jinping had ordered officials to play down the severity of the outbreak and emphasize that it’s not a result of COVID-19 mutation.

Some countries and regions are now expressing concerns.

Taiwan has advised the elderly, very young, and those with poor immunity to avoid going to China.

In China, COVID-19 isn’t heavily mentioned, but there’s growing public speculation that a mutation may be at play here.

So far, the Chinese authorities are expanding hospital capacity, promoting traditional Chinese medicine, and telling feverish students and teachers not to come to class.

What’s next? We’ll keep you informed.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described how people waiting use IV drips. The Epoch Times regrets the error.