the situation is improving, but the gastroenteritis is soon back

This beginning of the year 2023 is marked by a sharp decline in the three epidemics of Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, although the risk of recovery continues according to some experts.

“The worst is over.” In mid-December, hospital staff, suffocated, called for help in the face of a triple epidemic. The 9th wave of Covid-19, a widespread influenza virus and an unprecedented bronchiolitis epidemic in 10 years had forced François Braun, the Minister of Health, to multiply the calls for vaccination and the return of barrier movements before Christmas and the New Year.

“For the three epidemics, Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, the peaks of these three respiratory viruses are behind us, the trends are down”, reassured Mircea Sofonea, Associate Professor at the University of Montpellier.

A decrease in contaminations and hospitalizations confirmed by Public Health France (SPF), although the health authorities are always on guard and fear outbreaks that could again weaken the French hospital system, already in pain.

• The end of the ninth wave of Covid-19

The ninth wave of Covid-19 contamination, which peaked around mid-December, now appears to be behind us.

“We went from about thirty tests a day to 5-6 tests a day. Covid dropped suddenly”, testified Frédéric Desmoulins, pharmacist in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

According to the latest data from the SPF, from January 9 to 15, incidence and positivity rates are decreasing in all metropolitan areas. Ditto for the number of new hospital admissions, critical admissions and deaths.

But health professionals are not crying victory too soon, because the prospect of a new wave is not out of the question. For Philippe Amouyel, professor of public health at the Lille University Hospital, “we are at the start of the endemic phase, other resurgences should come, for example conditional on the arrival of new varieties”.

Same story for Mircea Sofonea, lecturer at the University of Montpellier: “The rest is difficult to estimate because it depends on which sub-variety will take over, on how people will deal with this new health context, where there are only recommendations and stronger incentives.

That’s why we “could very well have a 10th wave looming on the horizon, but it’s very hard to say when”, he analyzed.

For example, the XBB.1.5 subvariant that emerged in the United States should become dominant in Europe within a month or two, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). It remains to be seen what will be its immune escape or its impact on hospitalizations in France.

• Severe flu, but subsiding

This epidemic, which is particularly severe this year, is not yet over, but as with Covid-19, a peak has been reached. The SPF indicates that the indicators are decreasing in all age groups and in all metropolitan areas, although traffic remains active throughout the territory.

“Influenza is still at a high level, but we can believe that we have reached the peak. There are still hospitalized patients, severe forms of influenza mainly in weak people, unvaccinated elderly”, assured Philippe Amouyel.

But he added: “It is important to continue to campaign for this flu vaccine campaign, especially as we have reached the peak, but it is not out of the question that we could have a resurgence, especially among the most vulnerable people. more fragile.”

Since the flu is still in the epidemic phase, it can experience a “light start”, warns Mircea Sofonea. The speaker recalls that last year or in 2017/2018 “the pollution continued throughout the spring”.

• Bronchiolitis, soon in the post-epidemic phase

In early November, the SPF announced that bronchiolitis-related hospitalizations were at their highest level in 10 years. Since December, the epidemic has been waning.

According to the agency, the circulation of the virus among newborns in the week from January 9 to 15 allowed Île-de-France to no longer be considered epidemic phase, while six other regions went from an “epidemic” red alert phase to “post -epidemic” orange.

“The epidemic has already been decreasing since December, it is a seasonal virus. The development is favorable because we no longer have this overload in the pediatric intensive care units”, noted Philippe Amouyel from Lille University Hospital.

• Heading for a return of gastroenteritis?

Another disease caused by a virus could make a comeback after several discreet years, characterized by respect for barrier movements: gastroenteritis.

At least that is what the professor of public health at Lille University Hospital fears. “Gastroenteritis should not be long in coming back. They had disappeared during the ‘Covid hospitalization period’ because we used hydro-alcoholic gel widely. As it is used less and less, hand-held transmission may develop again”, he warned.

Philippe Amoyel then concluded: “We must remain vigilant.”

Caroline Dieudonné with Théo Putavy

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