Covid-19, flu and bronchiolitis: France facing an unprecedented "triple epidemic"

Covid-19, flu and bronchiolitis: France facing an unprecedented “triple epidemic”

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Between a ninth wave of Covid-19 which is rising inexorably, the return of the flu and record levels of bronchiolitis in infants, the warning signals are panicking in French hospitals, faced with a flagrant lack of staff.

Bronchiolitisflu, Covid-19 : the trio of respiratory diseases of viral origin worries France and its already saturated hospitals. “A completely new situation” and whose evolution is difficult to predict, alerted Friday, December 2, during a press briefing, Public Health France.

The flu hits the metropolis early, adding to a Covid-19 in full recovery. As winter sets in, nearly 50,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in recent days, twice as many as in early November. This situation is “worrying” because the addition of these pathologies can lead to “a fairly strong clinical impact, especially on hospitals”, epidemiologist Sophie Vaux explained to AFP.

The pressure is thus mounting on caregivers with 19,061 patients hospitalized on November 29, 279 more than the day before. Among them, more than a thousand are currently in critical care units.

In this context, the government calls on the most vulnerable and the elderly to be vaccinated against the flu and Covid-19 before the end of year celebrations as well as the return of barrier gestures, in particular the wearing of masks in public transport.

Pediatrics in crisis

Added to this already bleak picture is another problem that this time strikes very young children: bronchiolitis. Present every winter, it seems this year to be earlier and more virulent than usual, sending an increasing number of infants to the emergency room.

“Bronchiolitis is special this year because it comes after a period of great infectious lull during the Covid-19 period when we were confined and followed the instructions for washing hands and wearing a mask. the overall level of antibodies has dropped in the population and we are now paying what is called the immune debt”, explains Andreas Werner, president of the French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics.

According to data from Public health France3,007 children under the age of two were hospitalized after going to the emergency room during the week of November 21, an increase of 16% compared to the previous week.

To cope with the saturation of services, an emergency plan against bronchiolitis had to be activated by the Ministry of Health at the beginning of November: the Orsan plan, equivalent to a “white plan” at national level, should make it possible to better plan the needs of hospitals and can result in the opening of new beds or the recall of staff on vacation.

Insufficient according to pediatricians who, in a column published this week by Ie newspaper Le Monde, directly challenge the President of the Republic on “cancellations of care, postponements of surgery” which entail “risks and loss of chance” for children. “A society that can no longer take care of children is a society in decline,” says the collective of health professionals.

Exhausted and understaffed caregivers

Exhausted, health professionals, already hard hit by previous waves of Covid-19, lack of resources and chronic understaffing, fear they will not be able to finish the year.

At the hospital, the warning signs are multiplying. As the newspaper Le Parisien reports, eight out of nine nurses and seven out of eight nursing assistants did not show up for the morning shift on November 28 in the emergency room of the Kremlin-Bicêtre hospital center, in Val-de-Marne.

>> To read: Shortage of caregivers, the French hospital model on the verge of rupture

“We are at the height of concern, confirms Doctor Marc Noizet, president of Samu-Urgences de France with Liberation. “If the epidemics combine, we will not be able to cope, except to deprogram patients to do square”.

“It is an unprecedented crisis context that is playing out in hospitals but also in town”, underlines Andreas Werner when general practitioners ended a historic strike on Friday to demand a revaluation of the price of consultations.

How will this “triple epidemic” which is weakening a French health system on the verge of a nervous breakdown going to evolve in the coming weeks? It is “difficult to predict the occurrence of the peaks” of the three epidemics, explained Sophie Vaux during the press briefing from Public Health France, in particular the dark scenario of a simultaneous peak of Covid and influenza, or even bronchiolitis, at Christmas.

One of the big unknowns is a possible competition between the influenza and Covid-19 viruses which could make their coexistence difficult and thus limit the risk of simultaneous peaks.

With AFP


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