Chinese “Surge” in Children with Respiratory Infections? – Robert W. Malone MD 11/26/23


“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.’
–Marie Curie

On Tuesday, 11 November 2023, the ProMED mail (Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) international early warning system, hosted and maintained by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, posted a machine translated report from FTV News (China) of an undiagnosed respiratory illness in several areas in China in the general regions of Beijing and Liaoning. As these two cities are almost 800 km apart, this information implies a widespread outbreak.

The ProMED report reads as follows:

With the outbreak of pneumonia in China, children’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning and other places were overwhelmed with sick children, and schools and classes were on the verge of suspension. Parents questioned whether the authorities were covering up the epidemic.

In the early morning, Beijing Children’s Hospital was still overcrowded with parents and children whose children had pneumonia and came to seek treatment. Mr. [W], a Beijing citizen: “Many, many are hospitalized. They don’t cough and have no symptoms. They just have a high temperature (fever) and many develop pulmonary nodules.”

The situation in Liaoning Province is also serious. The lobby of Dalian Children’s Hospital is full of sick children receiving intravenous drips. There are also queues of patients at the traditional Chinese medicine hospitals and the central hospitals. A staff member of Dalian Central Hospital said: “Patients have to wait in line for 2 hours, and we are all in the emergency department and there are no general outpatient clinics.”

Some school classes have even been canceled completely. Not only are all students sick, but teachers are also infected with pneumonia. …

Mr. [W], a Beijing citizen: “Now you are not allowed to report to school. If you have any symptoms such as fever, cold, cough and then you are hospitalized, you can ask for leave…”

Since China stopped adhering to the “zero” policy at the beginning of the year [2023], epidemics such as influenza, mycoplasma, and bronchopneumonia have broken out from time to time. …

Communicated by:
ProMED Rapporteur Dan Silver

This was then followed by a press conference on 13 November 2023, in which Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission reported an increase in incidence of respiratory diseases in China. Chinese authorities attributed this increase to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection which typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Authorities stressed the need for enhanced disease surveillance in healthcare facilities and community settings, as well as strengthening the capacity of the health system to manage patients.

Mycoplasma is an interesting parasitic organism, somewhere between virus and bacteria as (unlike bacteria) mycoplasma species seem to be unable to grow without benefiting from some functions provided by the host. M. pneumoniae is well known to all primary care clinicians, and particularly pediatricians, and the respiratory disease associated with infection is commonly clinically referred to “walking pneumonia”. I have personally contracted this disease many times in my life, often during the winter season when I am under high stress for some reason (which of course is immunosuppressive). It creeps up on you, draining your energy, and can be hard to recognize until you become so run down that you present to a physician for a work up. Once diagnosed, it typically responds to a course of antibiotics. There is no vaccine for mycoplasma; many including myself are repeatedly infected, suggesting that the pathogen has evolved to evade “natural immunity” to some extent. There is no current unmet medical need for a vaccine since the disease responds well to antibiotics. As an aside, for those scientists involved in culturing cells (such as I used to do for decades), mycoplasma infection of cell cultures is a substantial risk which requires constant monitoring as the signs of infection of cultured cells are subtle, and the agent is highly infectious.

By way of further background, the following quotes are from a book chapter titled “Mycoplasma Pneumonia”, published in “Stat Pearls” by authors Basma Abdulhadi; John Kiel.

M. pneumoniae is a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia and is transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets during close contact. It has an incubation period that ranges between 2 to 3 weeks. Like most respiratory pathogens, infection usually occurs during the winter months but can happen year-round. Estimates show that around 1% of the population of the United States is infected annually. Incidence may be much higher since infection can be subclinical or cause milder disease that does not require hospitalization. Outbreaks of mycoplasma infection occur in military recruits, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. Only 5 to 10% of people infected with Mycoplasma develop pneumonia. It causes upper and lower respiratory tract infections in all age groups, particularly more than 5 years and less than 40 years of age.

Mycoplasma species are the smallest living organisms that can survive alone in nature. There are over 120 Mycoplasma species; only 13 have been isolated from humans, and only four are known to cause disease in humans.

The WHO then posted a “statement” on November 22 concerning the situation in China which then triggered various corporate media outlets to spin up more infectious disease fearporn, and then this fear-based propaganda has then been actively promoted by Google News.

On 21 November, media and ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. It is unclear if these are associated with the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities, or separate events. 

On 22 November, WHO requested additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism.  We have also requested further information about recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV and mycoplasma pneumoniae, and the current burden on health care systems. WHO is also in contact with clinicians and scientists through our existing technical partnerships and networks in China.  

Since mid-October, northern China has reported an increase in influenza-like illness compared to the same period in the previous three years. China has systems in place to capture information on trends in influenza, influenza-like illnesses, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2, and reports to platforms such as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.   

While WHO seeks this additional information, we recommend that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, which include recommended vaccination; keeping distance from people who are ill; staying home when ill; getting tested and medical care as needed; wearing masks as appropriate; ensuring good ventilation; and regular hand-washing.

Cynics such as myself, and at this point perhaps you also, will note that this is a pretty standard seasonal infectious disease pattern. Vaccination against influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and RSV will do nothing to suppress mycoplasma. In contrast, Vitamin D3 supplementation probably would, the deficit of which seems to strongly correlate or explain (depending on who you talk to) much of the seasonal variation in respiratory infections.

Sensing another infectious disease clickbait opportunity, the usual hack pharma-sponsored corporate media outlets and “journalists” posing as infectious disease specialists jumped on this story without bothering to really comprehend before banging out their pieces, spreading and amplifying fear for profit. This nicely fed the meme that China is a huge, mysterious source of threatening respiratory pathogens which will sweep the world and kill children. Which then lead multiple social media followers and activists to ask me to bring clarity to this situation, which in turn resulted in this substack essay….

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