After Covid-19, flu alert… which should not be taken lightly

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The flu epidemic for the 2022-2023 season is starting slowly in mainland France, but it could be of high intensity as it has been in several countries in the southern hemisphere. Specialists recommend getting vaccinated against the flu from October 18… and not forgetting the reminders of the anti-Covid vaccination.

With the mild temperatures that have prolonged summer in France in recent days, it would be easy to forget that the flu is indeed back. “The measures put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the pandemic have also contributed to reducing the burden of influenza. But with the lifting of most of these measures, the flu is back and should not be taken lightly, ”warned the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday October 5. “Influenza vaccines are safe and effectively reduce the number of severe cases and deaths, especially in the most vulnerable groups. So, get vaccinated against the flu” enjoined doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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As a reminder, “about a billion people contract seasonal flu each year and the threat of an influenza pandemic is permanent”, explains the WHO, which analyzes virus surveillance data produced by the WHO Global Surveillance System. Influenza and Response (GISRS). This global network of more than 150 laboratories in 127 countries, areas or territories is also celebrating the 70e anniversary of its creation. Each year, there are 5 million cases of serious diseases, and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths according to the WHO.

2 to 6 million cases of flu per year in France

In France, where the flu affects 2 to 6 million people each year, the seasonal flu epidemic remains weak for the time being at the start of autumn. In its first weekly flu surveillance bulletin, published this Wednesday, Public Health France unveiled a map of France all green, that is to say with the level “no alarm”. The incidence rate of consultations for flu-like illness, established by the Sentinelles network, is 76 per 100,000 inhabitants. Flu syndromes currently represent 1.9% of SOS Médecins medical acts and less than 1% of emergency room visits according to a count by the Oscour system. The number of samples positive for influenza identified is 3 (2.8%) within the framework of surveillance in ambulatory medicine of the Sentinelles network and 22 (0.5%) in the hospital laboratories notified to the National Reference Center ( CNR) of respiratory viruses.

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Overseas, on the other hand, Public Health France noted that Reunion entered the epidemic phase of influenza the week of September 26. In Martinique, the influenza surveillance indicators in the city and in the hospital increased sharply that week with active circulation of influenza viruses (hospital positivity rate of 28%). In Guadeloupe, city surveillance indicators have been increasing for two weeks.

Update on seasonal flu

While flu vaccination coverage in 2021-2022 was higher than in 2019-2020, it was lower than in 2020-2021. The authorities therefore call on the population to be vaccinated. “We have not had a strong flu epidemic for two years and therefore our overall immunity against the flu has probably diminished”, estimated on October 4 on RMC Professor Brigitte Autran, president of the Committee for Monitoring and Anticipation of Risks (Covars which succeeded the Covid-19 Scientific Council). The specialist “enormously” encourages vaccination against the flu, as much as that against the Covid, whose recall campaign for the most fragile populations was launched on October 3, with new vaccines adapted to the variants.

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The flu vaccine campaign starts on October 18

Immunology professor Alain Fischer, the government’s “Mister vaccine”, shares this analysis and estimated on September 28 in The Parisian that “there is a serious risk of an influenza epidemic”, emphasizing that “an influenza-Covid cohabitation is nothing to be happy about”; especially since the flu epidemic that has already hit the southern hemisphere has been virulent, particularly in New Zealand and South Africa. Professor Fischer also strongly recommends the double injection of Covid and flu vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccination campaign will start on October 18 in pharmacies and will be reserved until November 15 for people at risk (people aged 65 and over, people under 65 with certain chronic diseases, pregnant women, obese people, those around infants under 6 months at risk and immunocompromised people, health professionals, etc.).

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