Reports of an outbreak of a respiratory illness in China have understandably sparked global panic. Pneumonia, mostly affecting children, has been reported in northern China since mid-October, leading to a surge in hospitalisations.
There has been panic because it would be unfathomable to imagine the world being engulfed by another major virus outbreak even before it heals from the wounds inflicted by Covid-19.
Luckily, unlike four years ago when Chinese authorities were accused of being cagy after Covid-19 broke out in Wuhan, this time around, they have been forthcoming with information.
According to the WHO, Chinese authorities have attributed the illness to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection that typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus, and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19).
Being open with information such as this is a step in the right direction. The world can ill-afford China, or any other country for that matter, hiding details about a disease outbreak that has the potential to spread across the globe and cause widespread damage as did Covid-19.
Most likely if details about the Covid-19 outbreak were shared out swiftly, the virus could not have wreaked the kind of devastation that it did. According to the WHO, there have been 772,052,752 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 6,985,278 deaths worldwide. In Kenya, there have been 344,130 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 5,689 deaths.
Even as the world monitors the situation in China, it is important that countries, Kenya included, remain vigilant. Authorities must take caution to ensure that the respiratory illness does not spread to their countries. Already, a surge in cases of pneumonia has been reported in the US, the Netherlands and Denmark. It is important to establish whether they have a link with the outbreak in China.