CHINA could be facing a travel ban as Taiwan urged its citizens to avoid travelling to the country over fears of the spreading respiratory illness.
A mysterious pneumonia outbreak has swept China prompting lawmakers to call on US health authorities to investigate the "suspicious" clusters of the infection amid growing fears of a new pandemic.
Hospitals in Beijing have been overwhelmed with sick children, hooked up to IVs after showing "unusual symptoms" such as inflammation in the lungs and a high fever but no cough.
Doctors are said to be receiving thousands of phone calls a day, and schools have been evacuated to curb the spread.
The alarmingly growing number of cases led Taiwan's health ministry to advise those of high risk such as the elderly and people with poor immunity to avoid travelling to China, Hong Kong and Macau unless necessary.
The statement added that if travel is necessary, people should get flu and Covid vaccinations before going to China.
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Taiwan has been wary of disease outbreaks since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that started in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002-2003.
China, whose government claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own, initially tried to cover up that outbreak.
While an insider yesterday claimed that Chinese officials have been ordered to downplay the current disease and avoid using the term Covid-19.
Authorities have been ordered to refer to the outbreak as either mycoplasma pneumonia infection or influenza.
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While an illness caused by known pathogens like mycoplasma pneumonia has been circulating since spring, children are now showing ground glass opacity, also known as white lung syndrome, in lung scans – an indicator of severe respiratory illness.
Images showed children doing their homework in hospitals in special "homework zones" amid an outbreak of the mystery illness.
Young patients were given chairs and desks to study while hooked on IV drips in Jiangsu and Anhui, and central Hubei provinces, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The pictures showing mask-wearing children doing their homework sparked controversy on social media, with many suggesting children feeling unwell should be resting while others said it was a thoughtful move from the hospitals.
Following the surging number of cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it's "in touch with local health authorities and its country office in China".
But three top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have called for a probe of the "suspicious" clusters of viral infections in children in China, the Epoch Times report.
In a letter addressed to the CDC, the lawmakers said it would be "an abdication" of their duty to allow the Chinese regime to “repeat its misdeeds from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter noted China's efforts to conceal information about the pandemic and criticised the World Health Organization (WHO), which, “has long been criticized for being overly accommodating to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
Beijing told the WHO last week that the increase in cases of people with flu-like symptoms is down to "multiple known pathogens" returning stronger than ever despite the exact illness still being a mystery to doctors.
But the worrying rise in cases of children with the undiagnosed pneumonia infection has led WHO to demand fresh data.
The three Republican lawmakers – Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Brett Guthrie and Morgan Griffith requested the CDC to brief the committee and to get answers to questions about the new wave of the illness, including details of the outbreak and the country's plan of action.
Mr Griffith said: "There's no question that we should be taking a hard look at it and not counting on them to give us the real facts.
"We need to figure out what we need to do to protect ourselves from a disease that's in China from coming here if we can."
Hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed with patients, particularly in the north of the country.
Major paediatric hospitals are seeing up to 7,000 admissions per day in some areas of Beijing, according to reports.
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As the largest hospital in Tianjin — a province on the coast near Beijing — has allegedly seen more than 13,000 sick kids through its doors daily.
The growing number of patients have led China's health ministry to urge local authorities to increase the number of fever clinics.
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