The Netherlands is experiencing a strange rise in cases of pneumonia among children, becoming the second country to report such an outbreak this week.
The Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), a research institute located in Utrecht, about 40 km south of Amsterdam, reports that 80 out of 100,000 children aged 5 to 14 have contracted pneumonia last week.
This is the largest pneumonia outbreak NIVEL has recorded in recent years. At the height of the 2022 flu season, when cases of pneumonia were most common, 60 cases were recorded per 100,000 children in this age group.
A Dutch media outlet said that neither NIVEL nor the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the Dutch equivalent of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), could explain why pneumonia cases were increasing.
Mysterious cases of pneumonia in China have also begun to raise alarms. The first reports emerged last week that children’s hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning province were being overrun with children suffering from pneumonia.
Chinese authorities told the World Health Organization that no new pathogens had been detected in the outbreak and that the illnesses were caused by known seasonal viruses such as influenza and RSV, as well as by the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
Authorities have said strict COVID-related measures, lifted at the end of 2022, have left the population vulnerable to these annual viruses. Now, in the first flu season since the country’s strict COVID restrictions were lifted, the population is being ravaged by the annual viruses.
However, COVID-related measures have been gone in the Netherlands for some time, making it difficult to know what could be causing such a surge this year.
However, some fear that Chinese authorities are covering up the early stages of the epidemic. The country was widely criticized for its initial response to the discovery of COVID-19 almost exactly four years ago, and some saw the current situation as an echo of the past.