The bronchiolitis epidemic has continued to progress in recent days in France with visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations at unprecedented levels, the health authorities stressed on Wednesday November 9. Faced with this increase in cases which puts hospital services under pressure, the Minister of Health, François Braun, launched the national white plan, provided for in exceptional health situations.
“We are strengthening the means of each region to support caregivers and provide care for children and families”said François Braun on Wednesday.
Faced with unprecedented levels of hospitalization for 10 years, caused by the epidemic of bronchiolitis, I have a… https://t.co/jGUSkZ9oXF
“I decided this morning [mercredi]in addition to everything that was already mobilized, to trigger the ORSAN plan (organization of the response of the health system in exceptional health situations) specific to this epidemic, to further strengthen the means of the ARS (regional health agencies) and allow that the whole hospital can focus on this particularly acute problem today”said the minister in the Senate.
“This does not mean that the white plan has been triggered in all hospitals in France”but only in a “limited number” at this stage, said the minister’s entourage.
Created in 2014, the ORSAN system makes it possible to “reorganize the supply of care” in hospitals, but also in the city and in the medico-social sector, to “reallocate resources with regard to identified priorities”, indicates the website of the Ministry of Health. This may in particular result in the “reminder of hospital staff” and the “strengthening the permanence of ambulatory care”i.e. on-duty doctors in the evening and on weekends, or even, “if local resources are no longer sufficient”by mobilizing the health reserve.
Mr Braun “hopes that this plan be fully rolled out at regional level, under the authority of the ARS”who can thus “finely adapt hospitalization capacities” and “ensure the full mobilization of all health actors, public and private”the ministry said in a statement.
The regions of the northern half more affected
Noting a “continued increase” indicators “despite a shift in connection with the Toussaint school holidays”Public Health France pointed out on Wednesday “Very high number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for bronchiolitis and at levels higher than those observed at epidemic peaks for more than ten years”.
A total of 6,891 children under the age of 2 went to the emergency room for bronchiolitis in metropolitan France in the week from October 31 to November 6, i.e. a weekly increase of 7% – much less, however, than the increase of the previous week (+ 47%). Some 2,337 children were eventually hospitalized. “Hospitalizations for bronchiolitis represent 50% of hospitalizations following a visit to the emergency room in children under two years old. In comparison, this percentage was around 40% during the peaks of previous seasons”noted Public Health France.
If the entire metropolis is affected, the epidemic appears generally more marked in the regions of the northern half, adds the public health agency in its weekly report, the situation being particularly tense in the hospitals of the Ile-de-France region.
“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, bronchiolitis epidemics were known for their great regularity, with a peak systematically reached around the 50e week of the year. The pandemic has upset this relative balance.exposes to AFP Pascal Crépey, epidemiologist at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health in Rennes.
After a weaker circulation of the main virus causing bronchiolitis in 2020, the 2021 epidemic started in early October in France, in a context of end of confinements. “The 2022 epidemic seems to be shaping up like last year’s for its start”, but it is still difficult to determine if the peak is approaching, according to Pascal Crépey.
On the French public health side, epidemiologist Sophie Vaux “expect it to keep going up” and does not exclude that “the weekly rhythm rises once the effect of the holidays has faded”.
Bronchiolitis, which mainly strikes toddlers, is a very common disease and most of the time not serious. But its symptoms are spectacular and can sometimes be complicated to the point of requiring hospitalization. This epidemic has hit pediatric emergency services plunged into a crisis linked to unsatisfactory working conditions and a lack of staff.
This epidemic “still on the upswing”has “initially surprised the health system, which is forced to reorganize”, government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Sunday. Since mid-September, thirty-eight children in pediatric intensive care have been transferred from Ile-de-France to other regions.
Faced with this crisis and under pressure from caregivers, the Minister of Health, François Braun, announced last week new measures to help pediatric services, for a total amount of around 400 million euros. He then recognized a “worrying situation” in hospitals, linked to an epidemic of bronchiolitis “disturbing”.