Rapid infectious disease shifts in Chinese children and adolescents prior to COVID-19


Deaths of children and adolescents in China due to infectious diseases were becoming rare prior to the covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study. Quarantinable conditions with high death rates such as cholera and plague had effectively disappeared and many traditional and vaccine-preventable infectious diseases of childhood including diarrhea, measles and rubella became uncommon. But overall deaths from infectious diseases decreased steadily between 2008-2018 from 0.21 per 100,000 population in 2008 to 0.07 per 100,000 in 2017. MCRI Professor George Patton said until now no study had reported on recent trends in infectious diseases among children and adolescents in China. After the SARS outbreak in 2003, China made substantial investments in laboratory testing, surveillance system enhancement, national intervention programs for specific diseases, and collaboration with international partners. Comprehensive national surveillance systems and rapid proactive government responses would be an integral part of future infectious disease control in China and around the world.

China will need to continue its successful efforts against older infectious diseases of children and adolescents, including measles, tuberculosis, rabies, and scarlet fever and now scale-up vaccination for mumps, seasonal influenza, and hepatitis B. Along with the rest of the world, China will also need greater vigilance around the highly transmissible seasonal and unpredictable diseases that we have seen in the past two decades including SARS, MERS, novel influenzas, Zika, Ebola and now the new SARS-CoV-2 virus. Despite expanding the national childhood immunisation program in 2008, the most common infections in early childhood in China were still vaccine preventable diseases and gastrointestinal and enterovirus diseases, such as hand, foot and mouth disease. Sexually transmitted diseases and bloodborne infections largely affected older adolescents. There is a pressing need for more school and university-based sex education programs as well as peer education, and access to rapid testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Editorial Assistant
Journal of infectious disease and dignosis