Influenza cases remain at high but stable level

Updated: Jan 26, 2024 China Daily Print
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Multiple respiratory pathogens will continue to circulate around the country for the rest of this winter and spring, despite the current spread dominated by the influenza virus trending downward, health officials said on Thursday.

Peng Zhibin, a respiratory disease expert from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the number of respiratory disease cases peaked in early December only to rebound slightly later in the month, and has gone on to plateau at a high level since.

"But in the past week, the number began falling," she said during a news conference. "The majority of respiratory infections at present are of the influenza virus and the proportion of influenza B virus is high."

Peng said that different respiratory pathogens will continue to spread simultaneously or overtake one another for the rest of winter and in the upcoming spring.

"In the short term, the influenza virus will be dominant. But as the flu activity is showing signs of a decrease and winter breaks at schools have started, it will fall to a relatively low level late this month," she said.

Peng added that COVID-19 is circulating at a low level, but is showing signs of a slight increase in cases in recent days.

"The proportion of JN.1 — an emerging variant — is climbing. Most patients are either asymptomatic or mild and the strain does not cause a more severe condition compared with the current main strain of EG.5," she said.

"Due to mass population movement for visiting family and friends, and more events and gatherings held during the Spring Festival holiday, COVID-19 cases will likely rebound to some extent," she added.

This year's Spring Festival holiday runs from Feb 10 to 17.

Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission, said daily visits to respiratory illness departments at medical institutions nationwide have been declining and the country's medical system is operating in an orderly manner.

To cope with a heightened risk of transmission during the holiday season, Mi said efforts are being made to monitor infections at elderly care, nursery care and social welfare institutions, as well as to step up the preparedness of regular drugs, testing kits and beds at hospitals.

Peng suggested wearing masks when taking public transport and advised against the elderly or chronic disease patients visiting indoor recreation venues.

"These groups should get vaccinated so as to reduce the risk of infection and avoid developing into severe cases," she said.

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