By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor
The Philippine Health department is keeping a close watch on the so-called “walking pneumonia” currently spreading throughout China.
The Department of Health (DOH) admitted last week that flu cases in the country this year was some 50 percent higher compared to last year.
Walking pneumonia is a type of lung infection that can be life threatening to some people, especially children.
Among its symptoms are chills, sore throat, headache, and other cold or flu-like symptoms.
Reports say that it has become widespread in China, and the Health department is keeping a close watch due to the high number of Chinese tourists who visit the Philippines.
Late last week, the DOH said it logged close to 200,000 flu-like cases in the country thus far, or close to 50 percent higher than 2022.
The Health department also said that it had noted an increasing number of respiratory illnesses among children in China.
Health undersecretary Eric Tayag told local media last week that the samples they had tested indicated most patients were infected with influenza A or B viruses, even as the coronavirus persists in the country.
The surge in China has been pinned on the pathogen Mycoplasma pneumoniae, mostly affecting children.
The infection is not limited to China, as The Netherlands has also reported similar cases related to the bacteria that causes “atypical pneumonia” AKA “walking pneumonia.”
Tayag said the arrival of the pathogen in the country would be a “big concern,” particularly for children under eight years of age.
“We cannot give the same antibiotic to children less than eight because it’s contra-indicated for them to get these antibiotics,” he said, adding that, “if children younger than eight years old will get Mycoplasma pneumonia, that’s a very big concern.”
The DOH, however, sought to allay the public’s fears by stating that so far there is no evidence of a new infectious disease in the Philippines despite the latest situation in China.
The Health department also said it was intensifying its monitoring of the situation.
Chinese media reported recently that some of their pediatric medical centers were crowded with children who had fallen sick.
The wave of influenza cases sweeping parts of China prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to request details of the possible sources. Chinese Health officials said causal agents include known pathogens such as mycoplasma, RSV, influenza, and SARS-CoV-2.
The walking pneumonia’s symptoms are usually relatively mild but can last for weeks.
Other countries also experiencing serious epidemics at this time include South Korea and France, according to the WHO.
The Philippines’ healthcare community is wary of any new illness given the country’s experience with COVID-19.
Although the new virus has become known as early as December of 2019, it was not until March of 2020 that the first case officially arrived in the Philippines.
A Chinese couple from Wuhan province – reputed epicenter of COVID-19 – had gone around the Philippines as tourists before their symptoms became apparent. The man died while the woman survived but by then it had become impossible to trace the number of locals they had infected.
The Philippines was forced to implement one of the world’s strictest lockdown protocols for some two years before the majority of the population was able to receive vaccine shots.