Friday, December 01, 2023

Taiwan CDC: Preliminary Airport Surveillance Report On Travelers From Mainland China, Hong Kong & Macau


While the tabloids, social media, and even some mainstream media are having a field day speculating about the uptick of respiratory illnesses in China - using terms like `Mysterious' or `While-Lung Syndrome' - it is worth noting that so far, we've seen no evidence of anything other than an increase in already-known seasonal illnesses. 

Seasonal viruses (and other pathogens) can change over time, making it always possible that a mutation has increased the transmissibility, pathogenicity, or antimicrobial resistance (see past examples here, here, here and here) of one of the `usual suspects'. 

But we've also seen similar upticks of respiratory illnesses in many other countries in the months (and years) following their dismantling of pandemic restrictions, with no indication of significant mutations.

 For it to happen in China, less than a year after abandoning their strict Zero-COVID policies, is hardly unexpected. 

We've also seen evidence suggesting that Severe COVID-19 Can Alter Long-term Immune System Responseand that may be playing a role as well. Ask again in a few years, and we may have some better answers. 

Frankly, we are still trying to figure this newfangled Post-COVID world of ours, and how new, existing, and future pathogens will interact and how they may impact our immune systems.   

While a novel virus (or other pathogen) could certainly emerge at anytime, and from any corner of the earth, so far we've seen no evidence of that currently happening in China.

But as you would expect, some countries outside of China have ramped up their surveillance and testing - particularly of international travelers from Asia - in order to detect anything suspicious as early as possible.  

Today we get the first report from Taiwan's CDC on their surveillance and testing of symptomatic travelers entering the country from China, Hong Kong and Macau. While testing appears to be voluntary, so far they have detected no signs of anything `novel'

The translated statement follows, after which I'll have a postscript.

The CDC has conducted "fixed-point monitoring and encouraged testing" for symptomatic travelers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macao at four international airports.

Currently, the majority of cases detected are influenza. Influenza is also the most prevalent respiratory infection in domestic communities. Parents are advised to pay attention to the health of young children and the public is encouraged to get vaccinated.

Release date: 2023-12-01

The Department of Disease Control and Prevention (hereinafter referred to as the CDC) stated today (1) that in order to strengthen monitoring of the respiratory disease epidemic in China, the Department has launched a total of 10,000 people in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung and Kaohsiung starting from November 26, 2023. Four international airports have implemented the "fixed-point monitoring and encouragement of inspection" measures. 

This measure is aimed at symptomatic (influenza-like) travelers arriving from China, Hong Kong and Macao, and encourages testing for 17 types of viruses including influenza virus, new coronavirus, rhinovirus, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, adenovirus, human interstitial pneumonia virus and 4 species of bacteria. 

Currently, a total of 38 people have been tested in the first four days, of which 13 cases were influenza virus, 3 cases were new coronavirus, 3 cases were adenovirus, 2 cases were rhinovirus, 6 cases were negative, and 11 more cases are being tested.

Based on the current surveillance data and test results, the current risk assessment of the respiratory tract infection epidemic in China remains unchanged. Known pathogens are highly prevalent in the community. In the near future, influenza viruses have become the dominant epidemic. Mycoplasma epidemic has declined. China will continue to closely monitor its epidemic development.

Regarding external concerns about the current epidemic situation of Mycoplasma pneumonia in China, Dr. Huang Yucheng, Professor of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Chang Geng, Linkou, and Chairman of the Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, explained that Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common pathogenic bacteria of respiratory tract infections and pneumonia, and is more common in young people. People and children over 5 years old have cases all year round in Taiwan, especially at the turn of spring and summer and early autumn. 

Generally speaking, the symptoms caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae are mild, and most people can recover on their own after infection. Common symptoms include sore throat, fatigue, fever, and cough that can last for weeks or even months. About 10% of people will develop it. pneumonia, but the symptoms are relatively mild, so it is commonly known as "walking pneumonia." Although data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that mycoplasma pneumonia may have a major epidemic every 3 to 7 years, the proportion of domestic surveillance has been low recently, indicating that it is a low-level epidemic. Please do not worry or worry. 

The CDC stated that in response to external concerns about the shortage of related drugs, the Food and Drug Administration has stated that in terms of Mycoplasma pneumonia drugs, the import of original potions for children has increased in October, and domestic generic drugs with the same ingredients will be mass-produced in December; There are currently sufficient stocks of adult medicines and there is no doubt about shortages. Dr. Huang further pointed out that at present, influenza is still the most common respiratory infection, and the peak of influenza epidemic is approaching. Young children are a high-risk group for influenza. Getting vaccinated as soon as possible to gain protection is the most effective prevention method. At the same time, it is also reminded that if danger signs such as dyspnea, shortness of breath, cyanosis (hypoxia) and other danger signs occur, please seek medical treatment as soon as possible and follow the doctor's instructions to take medication to reduce the risk of severe complications.

The CDC emphasized that according to the latest research from Dr. Dayi He's team in the United States, vaccination with XBB vaccine can significantly increase the vaccine's resistance to current COVID-19 epidemic strains (XBB.1.5 and EG.5.1) and emerging mutant strains (such as HV.1, HK. 3. In the immune response of JD.1, JN.1), neutralizing antibodies can increase up to 27 times. It is recommended that the public receive the XBB vaccine to enhance self-protection. People over the age of 65 who receive the COVID-19 vaccine can receive health education supplies and COVID-19 rapid screening reagents worth less than 500 yuan (inclusive) provided by each county and city. In addition, in order to improve the accessibility of vaccination for all, each county and city also provides Come to the vaccination service on demand. For vaccination centers, you can check the vaccination centers on the official website of the CDC in the "Autumn and Winter Vaccine Zone" (

It doesn't take a novel virus to put you or a loved one in the hospital, or for that matter, in the morgue. Seasonal flu, RSV, CAP (Community Acquired Pneumonia), and Norovirus are all quite capable of doing so, as they kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. 

Luckily there are vaccines that can offer some protection against many of these illnesses.
Unfortunately, far too few eligible people elect to get them every year, which puts all of us at risk of seeing overcrowded hospitals and excess winter mortality, even from something as mundane as seasonal flu.

For a look at what a severe `non-pandemic' flu season can look like, you may wish to revisit 2018's: