What is known about the outbreak of “unknown pneumonia” in Kazakhstan?

(ORDO NEWS) — Yes, it also seems to me that 2020 is going too far, but news is news, and viruses are viruses. Thus, in early July, the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan warned of an outbreak of “unknown pneumonia” in the country. This came after the Kazakh authorities reported cases of pneumonia in June, raising public concern. The fact is that it still remains unknown what kind of pneumonia it is, whether it is more deadly than COVID-19 and how things are with the coronavirus in Kazakhstan.

According to the country’s Ministry of Health, cases of pneumonia in Kazakhstan in the first half of 2020 increased by 55.4 percent compared to the same period in 2019; the disease claimed the lives of 1,772 people, of whom 628 died in June alone.

“Unspecified etiology”

A health ministry statement also said some of the reported cases are common pneumonia, but the cause of the infection in other patients is unclear. A ministry spokesman also said it was “potentially fatal pneumonia,” and doctors are treating patients according to the standard of care for COVID-19 patients.

While the causative agent of the “new pneumonia” remains unknown, “the country’s health departments are conducting comparative studies of the pneumonia virus, but have not yet identified it.” The Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan recognized the presence of “viral (type) pneumonia of unspecified etiology”, but the danger of an outbreak was initially denied.

Later, representatives of the Ministry explained that initially it was about an increase in cases of all types of pneumonia: bacterial, fungal and viral, including cases of “undetermined etiology”, according to the ICD-10 criteria, according to which coronavirus infection is diagnosed clinically or epidemiologically, but not confirmed laboratory research.

ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) is a document used as the leading statistical and classification framework in health care. Revised every ten years under the leadership of WHO.

Is “uncertain etiology” a coronavirus?

To date, Kazakhstan has reported 56,455 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 254 of which 254 have died. Since June 8, the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country has grown steadily, and in three digits, and by the beginning of July, more than 1000 new cases of the disease were recorded daily. Accordingly, the number of pneumonia has increased dramatically.

Since mid-June in the western regions of Atyrau and Aktobe regions, as well as in the southern city of Shymkent, there have been significant surges in the incidence of pneumonia. About 28,000 pneumonia patients with negative coronavirus tests are currently hospitalized, 98.9% of them are in a state of moderate severity. Read about whether it is possible to be re-infected with coronavirus and how it will affect the vaccine, read our material.

Saule Kisikova, head of the health department in the capital of Nur-Sultan, told Kazinform that doctors are detecting 600 people with pneumonia symptoms every day, up from 80 the day before the coronavirus outbreak occurred. Every day between 350 and 400 patients are hospitalized with either COVID-19 or pneumonia. To ensure the quality of COVID-19 tests and not to be confused with pneumonia amid rising reported cases in the country, the WHO said. Moreover, WHO experts suggest diagnosing all new registered cases of pneumonia in Kazakhstan as COVID-19, but remember that there may be other options.

Although the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has not been detected in patients with pneumonia, the cause of which cannot be 100 percent confirmed, pneumonia is 99.999% caused by the coronavirus. It is highly likely that the so-called “unknown pneumonia” is caused by a new coronavirus, and may be due to a lack of diagnostic capabilities.

Zhang Wenhong, Shanghai Infectious Disease Expert.

Wenhun also noted that the most pressing challenge for the Kazakh government at present is to increase the testing capacity of the new coronavirus and use advanced sequencing and other technologies to identify the causative agent of pneumonia of unknown etymology. It is necessary to find out the causative agent of pneumonia, so scientists still have a lot of work ahead.

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