Influenza: pre-epidemic, low vaccination coverage… Update on the virus which is making an early return

the essential
The flu, which circulated less during the years of the Covid-19 pandemic, appeared very early in the fall of 2022, with several signals that foreshadowed a rapid progression of the virus.

The seasonal flu virus is currently making a comeback with five regions of mainland France classified in a pre-epidemic situation: an early spread of the disease, but which is not yet exceptional in its magnitude. By way of comparison, at the beginning of December 2021, only one metropolitan region was in this situation: Occitanie…

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Concretely, Public Health France (SPF) announces in its weekly bulletin a 39% increase in visits to the emergency room and 65% in consultations with the general practitioner for the flu syndrome. Overseas, Mayotte, Martinique and Guadeloupe are already in an epidemic situation. Regarding Occitania, “the region is affected by an increase in indicators, in particular on the part of city doctors, but we do not see strong increases in emergencies”, underlines Cécile Durand, epidemiologist at Public Health France Occitanie.

[#Grippe] Weekly Bulletin November 23
u27a1ufe0f Transition of 4 regions to the pre-epidemic phase: Centre-Val de Loire, Hauts-de-France, Île-de-France and Normandy
u27a1ufe0f Brittany in the pre-epidemic phase since week 44

ud83dudc49 To consult the bulletin https://t.co/k7vzgFRJI1 pic.twitter.com/FSxgUQm2NC

– Public HealthFrance (@SantePublicFr) November 23, 2022

According to epidemiologist Martin Blachier, interviewed by The Midi Dispatch, “the majority of flu cases occur at the beginning of the year, so we have an early situation. However, nothing is really exceptional yet.” However, only four million French people have been vaccinated against the flu since mid-October, 20% less than in 2021. “Each year, there is a peak in vaccination at the start of the campaign, around mid -October, which then drops without ever rising,” explains Martin Blachier.

“In general, the vaccine is effective between 45% and 60% for the target populations”, i.e. people over 60 and at risk. According to the epidemiologist, “there is a drop in the vaccination rate compared to last year, but this is partly due to the fact that 2021 had seen a high rate of vaccination coverage among the target population”. Nevertheless, health professionals are sounding the alarm and SPF reminds us: “It is strongly recommended that people at risk and health professionals get vaccinated against seasonal flu without delay.”

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The fear of an explosive cocktail in the hospital

Especially, adds Philippe Amouyel, professor of public health at the University of Lille, as the possible cohabitation of several epidemics could turn into an explosive cocktail in the hospital. “We can expect a greater flu peak in December, with the drop in vaccination coverage and the lack of individual immunity since the virus circulated less last year”, explains the hospital practitioner. “However, he continues, the Covid-19 figures are on the rise and we already have an epidemic of bronchiolitis, so we could be faced with several epidemics, with a strong impact on hospitals.”

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Covid-19, bronchiolitis, flu… faced with the risk of hospital saturation, the Academy of Medicine recommends putting the mask back on

On the side of the ARS, Cécile Durand underlines the importance of preventive measures to be adopted against the flu virus, the H3N2 variant of which particularly affects the elderly. “The barrier gestures are the same for Covid-19 and the flu: wash your hands, respect physical distance, wear a mask.”

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