Childhood pneumonia cases are surging in the Netherlands, a health agency in the country has reported.
During the week of Nov. 13-19, there were 103 pneumonia cases in the Netherlands out of every 100,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14.
That was an increase from 83 the prior week, according to the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL).
This is a significant increase over the peak of the 2022 flu season, when the country recorded 58 cases of pneumonia per 100,000 children.
Cases are also rising among children age 4 and under in the Netherlands, rising from 124 to 145 per 100,000 within that same timeframe.
China has also seen an unexplained increase in childhood pneumonia cases and other respiratory illnesses.
ProMED, the global digital disease surveillance system, reported on Monday that Chinese hospitals — primarily in Beijing — have become "overwhelmed with sick children" as a result of the pneumonia outbreak.
At a press conference on Nov. 13, officials from the Chinese National Health Commission blamed the spike on the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, as this is the first flu season since the country eased its strict lockdown measures.
Chinese officials also attributed the increase to the spread of other infectious diseases, including the flu, RSV, SARS-COV-2 and a bacterial infection called mycoplasma pneumoniae, according to a statement on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.
On Nov. 22, WHO said it requested "additional epidemiologic and clinical information" from China — as well as laboratory results from the affected children.
"We have also requested further information about recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV and mycoplasma pneumoniae, and the current burden on health care systems," the agency said in its statement.
"They were locked down for all of 2022, and when you release the lockdown, all of the upper respiratory viruses — RSV, influenza, COVID — came roaring back."
"WHO is also in contact with clinicians and scientists through our existing technical partnerships and networks in China."
To reduce the risk of spreading respiratory illness, WHO recommends that people in affected areas stay up to date with vaccinations, maintain distance from people who are ill, stay home when sick, seek medical care as needed, wear masks as appropriate and wash hands regularly.
‘Immune pause’ could be culprit, doctor says
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, appeared on "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday to share his opinion on the surge.
While the doctor said he is a bit skeptical about China’s and WHO’s assertions that "everything’s OK," he said he also believes this may be the same phenomenon that the U.S. experienced last year, which he calls "immune pause."
"They were locked down for all of 2022, and when you release the lockdown, all of the upper respiratory viruses — RSV, influenza, COVID — come roaring back," Siegel said.
Another potential issue is that China is seeing an uptick in the mycoplasma bug.
"They’re flooding this bacteria with a Z-Pac — and when you give a Z-Pac to too many people, you get a resistant mycoplasma, and you can end up in the hospital," the doctor warned.
"So I think a combination of all of those things is our answer here."
For people in high-risk groups, including those over the age of 65, Siegel recommends getting the pneumococcal vaccine, as well as vaccines for RSV and flu.
Edward Liu, M.D., infectious diseases section chief at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, noted that historically, RSV and flu have caused respiratory infections during the winter season.
"Sudden surges in respiratory infections could be explained by RSV and flu," he told Fox News Digital.
"Last year was particularly bad for RSV affecting children in the U.S."
"I think people are worried about new respiratory infections showing up, even in other countries, as we have found out how quickly a respiratory virus can spread internationally," Liu went on. "No one wants another pandemic."
The doctor added that novel infections cannot be easily detected by commercial laboratory tests.
"Also, some hospitals don't have the newer, more advanced respiratory virus testing to pick up common respiratory pathogens," Liu noted.
"It makes sense for the WHO and/or CDC to assist China and the Netherlands in determining the cause of these respiratory infections."