the situation is improving, but the gastroenteritis will be back soon

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

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

“In the three epidemics of Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, the peak values ​​​​for these three respiratory viruses are behind us, the trends are declining,” assures Mircea Sofonea, lecturer at the University of Montpellier.

A decrease in contaminations and hospitalizations, confirmed by Public Health France (SPF), even if the health authorities are always vigilant and fear outbreaks that could weaken the French hospital system already in agony.

• The end of the ninth wave of Covid-19

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

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

According to the latest data from SPF, incidence and positivity rates decline in all metropolitan areas from Jan. 9-15. The same is true for the rate of new hospital admissions, ICU admissions and deaths.

But health professionals aren’t shouting victory too quickly because the prospect of a new wave isn’t out of the question. For Philippe Amouyel, Professor of Public Health at Lille University Hospital, “we are at the beginning of the endemic phase, other resurgences should arrive, for example depending on the arrival of new variants”.

The same goes for Mircea Sofonea, lecturer at the University of Montpellier: “The rest is difficult to estimate because it depends on which subvariant will take over how people will grasp this new health context where there are only recommendations and more strong incentives.

Therefore, “a 10th wave could very well appear on the horizon, but it is very difficult 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 his immune escape will be or how it will affect hospital admissions in France.

• Severe influenza but decreasing

This epidemic, which has been particularly violent this year, is not over yet, but as with Covid-19, a peak has been reached. SPF points out that the indicators decrease in all age groups and in all metropolitan areas, even if traffic remains active throughout the area.

“The flu remains at a high level, but we can think we’ve reached the top. There are still hospitalized patients, severe forms of influenza, mainly in the frail, the elderly unvaccinated,” assured Philippe Amouyel.

But he added: “It’s important to remain committed to this flu vaccination campaign, especially as we’ve reached the peak, but it’s not out of the question that we may rebound, especially among the most vulnerable.”

Indeed, as the flu is still in the epidemic phase, it could get off to an “easy start”, warns Mircea Sofonea. The lecturer recalls that last year or 2017/2018 “the contaminations continued throughout the spring”.

• Bronchiolitis, soon in the post-epidemic phase

In early November, SPF announced that hospital admissions related to bronchiolitis reached their highest level in 10 years. The epidemic has been declining since December.

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

“The epidemic has been declining since December, it is a seasonal virus. The evolution is favorable because we no longer have this congestion in the pediatric intensive care units,” noted Philippe Amouyel of Lille University Hospital.

• Towards a return of gastroenteritis?

Another disease caused by a virus could be making a comeback after several discreet years marked by respect for barrier gestures: gastroenteritis.

At least that’s what the professor of public health at Lille University Hospital fears. “The gastroenteritis should not be long in coming. It had disappeared during the ‘Covid confinement’ because we used hydroalcoholic gel very frequently. As it is used less and less, hand transmission may develop again,” he warned.

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

Caroline Dieudonné with Theo Putavy

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