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BACKGROUND: Beyond the direct effect of COVID-19 infection on young people, the wider impact of the pandemic on other infectious diseases remains unknown. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to assess changes in the incidence and mortality of 42 notifiable infectious diseases during the pandemic among children and adolescents in China, compared with prepandemic levels. METHODS: The Notifiable Infectious Disease Surveillance System of China was used to detect new cases and fatalities among individuals aged 5-22 years across 42 notifiable infectious diseases spanning from 2018 to 2021. These infectious diseases were categorized into 5 groups: respiratory, gastrointestinal and enterovirus, sexually transmitted and blood-borne, zoonotic, and vector-borne diseases. Each year (2018-2021) was segmented into 4 phases: phase 1 (January 1-22), phase 2 (January 23-April 7), phase 3 (April 8-August 31), and phase 4 (September 1-December 31) according to the varying intensities of pandemic restrictive measures in 2020. Generalized linear models were applied to assess the change in the incidence and mortality within each disease category, using 2018 and 2019 as the reference. RESULTS: A total of 4,898,260 incident cases and 3701 deaths were included. The overall incidence of notifiable infectious diseases decreased sharply during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020) compared with prepandemic levels (2018 and 2019), and then rebounded in 2021, particularly in South China. Across the past 4 years, the number of deaths steadily decreased. The incidence of diseases rebounded differentially by the pandemic phase. For instance, although seasonal influenza dominated respiratory diseases in 2019, it showed a substantial decline during the pandemic (percent change in phase 2 2020: 0.21, 95% CI 0.09-0.50), which persisted until 2021 (percent change in phase 4 2021: 1.02, 95% CI 0.74-1.41). The incidence of gastrointestinal and enterovirus diseases decreased by 33.6% during 2020 but rebounded by 56.9% in 2021, mainly driven by hand, foot, and mouth disease (percent change in phase 3 2021: 1.28, 95% CI 1.17-1.41) and infectious diarrhea (percent change in phase 3 2020: 1.22, 95% CI 1.17-1.28). Sexually transmitted and blood-borne diseases were restrained during the first year of 2021 but rebounded quickly in 2021, mainly driven by syphilis (percent change in phase 3 2020: 1.31, 95% CI 1.23-1.40) and gonorrhea (percent change in phase 3 2020: 1.10, 95% CI 1.05-1.16). Zoonotic diseases were not dampened by the pandemic but continued to increase across the study period, mainly due to brucellosis (percent change in phase 2 2020: 0.94, 95% CI 0.75-1.16). Vector-borne diseases showed a continuous decline during 2020, dominated by hemorrhagic fever (percent change in phase 2 2020: 0.68, 95% CI 0.53-0.87), but rebounded in 2021. CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a marked decline in notifiable infectious diseases in Chinese children and adolescents. These effects were not sustained, with evidence of a rebound to prepandemic levels by late 2021. To effectively address the postpandemic resurgence of infectious diseases in children and adolescents, it will be essential to maintain disease surveillance and strengthen the implementation of various initiatives. These include extending immunization programs, prioritizing the management of sexually transmitted infections, continuing feasible nonpharmaceutical intervention projects, and effectively managing imported infections.

Original publication




Journal article


Jmir public health surveill

Publication Date





COVID-19, children and adolescents, notifiable infectious diseases, Humans, COVID-19, China, Adolescent, Child, Child, Preschool, Young Adult, Incidence, Male, Communicable Diseases, Female, Pandemics, Disease Notification