the epidemic continues to develop in France, hospitalizations increase sharply

The number of emergency visits increased by 52% in the week from 19 to 25 December. The peak of pollution has not yet been reached.

On a trip to Annecy (Haute-Savoie) this Wednesday, Health Minister François Braun did not hide his concern. The influenza epidemic in France is currently characterized by “an explosion of cases, with particularly severe cases, which means that the intensive care units are saturated at a global level”, the minister stressed.

A finding supported by the latest epidemiological bulletin revealed today by Public Health France, which concerns the development of the epidemic in the week of December 19 to 25. While the entire metropolitan area as well as Mayotte, Réunion, Guadeloupe and Martinique are in epidemic phase, the agency notes a “continued increase in influenza indicators in all age groups”.

“Very high” level of activity in the city and at the hospital

Public Health France first emphasizes a “very high level of activity in urban medicine and in hospitals, especially among 15-64-year-olds”. The frequency of consultations for influenza syndrome last week amounted to 460 per 100,000 inhabitants, an increase of 29% over seven days. As for SOS Doctors consultations, consultations regarding influenza syndromes are still increasing and now reach 25.4%.

“The activity of the city’s medicine against influenza syndrome remained at a very high level of intensity for all ages combined in week 51”, emphasizes Public Health France.

But it is at the hospital, where the emergency services are already overwhelmed, that the dynamics are most worrying. The number of emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses increased by 52%. But it is admissions after being in the emergency room that experience the biggest increase, as they have almost doubled.

Between December 19 and 25, 2,738 French people were hospitalized for flu-like illnesses, a 75% increase on the previous week. Finally, in outpatient medicine as in hospitals, the proportion of patients who are positive for influenza is still increasing. Again, Public Health France evokes a “very high level of intensity”.

193 people in intensive care since October

Although the flu is mild in most cases, the flu has sent nearly 200 French people to intensive care since the beginning of October. A total of 193 people have been admitted to intensive care since the start of the flu season. “16 were between 0 and 4 years, 16 between 5 and 14 years, 79 were between 15 and 64 years and 80 were 65 years or older”, states Public Health France.

The number of deaths also appears to be accelerating. Of the 10 deaths reported since early October, seven have occurred in the past three weeks. “6 in people aged 65 or over, 2 in people aged 15 to 64 and 2 in children aged 5 to 14”, reveals Public Health France.

Finally, on the side of the 25,000 medico-social institutions listed in France, 98 cases of episodes of clustered cases of acute respiratory infection attributed to influenza have been reported. But here again there has been an acceleration of pollution in recent weeks.

An early flu season

Some regions are more affected than others by this explosion of the influenza epidemic. Public Health France highlights Hauts-de-France, Île-de-France, Normandy and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region among the most affected areas.

Graph showing the number of consultations for influenza-like illness per  100,000 inhabitants since 2017.
Graph showing the number of consultations for influenza-like illness per 100,000 inhabitants since 2017. © Santé publique France

Compared to previous waves of influenza, the epidemic raging this year on French territory is characterized by its haste. Since 2017, it is the first time that such a degree of occurrence of consultations for flu-like illnesses has been reached so early. However, the current level of consultations has not yet reached the record for the 2018-2019 season.

Amid a strike by liberal doctors, these latest figures are raising fears of the worst for the French hospital system. Health Minister François Braun spoke on Wednesday of “a week with all dangers”.

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