Chinese Authorities Say Widespread Respiratory Infections in Children Caused by Multiple Viruses, Bacteria

Chinese Authorities Say Widespread Respiratory Infections in Children Caused by Multiple Viruses, Bacteria
A group of Chinese children accompanied by their parents get treatment for flu at a hospital in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province, on Jan. 8, 2010.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In recent months, hospitals across China have been overwhelmed with children suffering from severe respiratory infections that are reportedly difficult to treat. Initially labeled as "mycoplasma pneumonia," local authorities recently said the disease is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria.

Since early November, several provincial and municipal health departments have issued warnings about “mixed infections” of respiratory diseases. These include the adenovirus and other pathogens that cause mycoplasma pneumonia, influenza, COVID-19, and common bacterial diseases.

On Nov. 2, local health authorities in Beijing announced that the number of patients with respiratory infections at Beijing Children's Hospital had reached 3,500 to 3,600 per day.

According to a report by mainland Chinese media Xinmin Weekly on Nov. 4, the children's emergency department of Shanghai Songjiang District Central Hospital has been receiving more than 700 patients every day, three times more than in the same period in previous years.

Since July this year, Shanghai Children's Medical Center reportedly admitted nearly 400 children with mycoplasma pneumonia, doubling the percentage to about 80 percent compared to previous years.

Due to Chinese authorities’ record of underreporting infections and covering up information, it is difficult to assess the true scale of the current outbreak.


Common symptoms of the respiratory infection include cough, sputum, runny nose, fever, lung infection, and weakness. Most infections occur in children, and symptoms can persist between two to four weeks.
Dr. Yu at Shanghai’s Xinhua Hospital told Chinese media that most children with mycoplasma pneumonia in the outpatient clinic are under the age of 10. Despite receiving treatment, some children did not show improvement and progressed to severe cases, such as exhibiting symptoms of “white lung syndrome."

Li Hua (pseudonym) of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on Nov. 17 that his 5-year-old son was admitted to a local hospital in the previous week and diagnosed with mycoplasma pneumonia, which had caused recurrent fever.

After the boy had a bronchoscopy on the morning of Nov. 15, he experienced weakness in the left arm and leg. In the afternoon, an MRI was conducted and showed he had a mycoplasma cerebral infarction.

Mr. Li had no choice but to rush the child by ambulance overnight to a major hospital in Shanghai, a five-hour drive.

The child is now in the intensive care unit (ICU), but his parents can only wait outside the room, and the results of the expert consultation have not yet been released by the time Mr. Li spoke to The Epoch Times.

Guo Jie (pseudonym) from Dalian, Liaoning Province, told The Epoch Times that her 13-year-old son was hospitalized at the Dalian Women's and Children's Medical Center for seven consecutive days due to a fever caused by the "mixed infection." After taking a CT scan and discovering that there was a “blockage” in his lungs, the doctor requested a lung washing to help him breathe.

Chinese netizens say that when one family member is infected with this particular respiratory disease, others in the household succumb to the illness one after another, making recovery a challenge.

No Hospital Beds

Guo Ling (pseudonym), a resident of Gu’an county, Langfang city, Hebei Province, revealed to The Epoch Times that all the local hospitals ran out of beds when her son was ill in October.

Ms. Guo has two sons, and both recently had a fever. The older child has recuperated, but the younger one is currently going through another bout of fever.

Ms. Guo shared that when she was looking for a hospital for her younger son, none of the local hospitals had any available beds. She then decided to take her son to the nearest hospital for an intravenous (IV) infusion. Nevertheless, she still had to wait in line at midnight to secure an appointment.

According to the medical exam report, the boy was diagnosed with “mixed infection.” However, Ms. Guo said that the hospital no longer conducts COVID-19 tests, so there is no way to verify whether the coronavirus is also a component of the “mixed infection.”

She described the scene inside the hospital as "chaotic.”

"In the pediatrics department, the hallway was full of people. There were no seats, so people brought their own stools. There was no place to hang IV bags, which were taped to the wall. It was really chaotic," she said.

Despite undergoing a series of infusion treatments, Ms. Guo's son has not fully recovered. Recurring symptoms, such as fever and a runny nose, persist, so she decided to transition her child to traditional Chinese medicine for treatment.

Meanwhile, Ms. Guo and other parents contacted the local school about offering online classes due to concerns about cross-infection.

Caring for her ailing child took a toll on Ms. Guo, and she started having symptoms, including fever. She tried the traditional Chinese medicine prescribed to her child, and her condition improved gradually.

High Medical Expenses

Several families told The Epoch Times that the high cost of medical care is a significant burden.

Zhao Yufeng (pseudonym) from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, shared that her 2-month-old son experienced a sudden fever on Oct. 24, which persisted for four days. Despite reaching out to all local hospitals, none had available beds then.

Eventually, the infant was admitted to the Hohhot Women and Children's Healthcare Hospital. Despite the shortage of beds in this hospital as well, the doctors found a solution by sending the patient directly to the intensive care unit (ICU).

After a series of tests, Ms. Zhao spent 15,000 yuan (about $2,080).

The doctors were unable to identify the cause of the illness on the first day. Subsequent virus tests in the following days revealed a "mixed infection."

Ms. Zhao said her son underwent extensive physical examinations during his hospital stay, including the insertion of a gastric tube and a urinary catheter, regular blood draws every two days, daily infusions, medication, and nebulization treatments.

As of Nov. 20, her son still experienced symptoms like fever, cough, and a runny nose. Faced with escalating medical bills, Ms. Zhao requested the hospital four times to discharge her child, but the hospital did not agree. Eventually, after 11 days of hospitalization, she decided to take her son out of the hospital without the medical staff's consent.

"It really pains my heart. ... The hospital also gave him imported protein medicine, which is said to strengthen the immune system. It costs 550 yuan [about $76] for a small bottle, and I can't afford to pay for more than four bottles. Medical insurance does not cover this part,” Ms. Zhao said.

She believes the doctors lacked the expertise to treat her child's illness effectively and were merely experimenting with different approaches.

Many Chinese netizens are taking to social media platforms to air their grievances about high medical bills, and sharing about the hardships their families are experiencing this year.

Alex Wu contributed to this report.
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