It’s getting better, but gastroenteritis will return soon

The beginning of 2023 is marked by a sharp decline in the three epidemics of Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, even if, according to some experts, recovery risks persist.

“The worst is over.” In mid-December, the hospital staff, suffocating, asked for help in the face of a triple epidemic. The ninth wave of Covid-19, a widespread influenza virus and an epidemic of bronchiolitis unprecedented in 10 years have forced François Brown, the health minister, to double down on calls for vaccinations and the return of barrier gestures before Christmas and New Years.

“As for the three epidemics, COVID-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, the peaks of these three respiratory viruses are behind us, and the trends are declining,” reassured Mircea Sofonia, a lecturer at the University of Montpellier.

And the French public health authority (SPF) confirmed a decrease in infections and hospitalizations, even if the health authorities were always vigilant, fearing bouts that could weaken again the French hospital system, which is already in pain.

• The end of the ninth wave of Covid-19

It appears that the ninth wave of Covid-19 contamination, which peaked around mid-December, is now behind us.

“We went from about thirty tests a day to 5-6 checks a day. Covid suddenly fell,” testified Frédéric Desmoulins, a pharmacist at Issy-les-Moulineau.

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

But health professionals do not cry a quick victory because the possibility of a new wave is not excluded. For Philippe Amuel, Professor of Public Health at Lille University Hospital, “we are at the beginning of the endemic phase, other reversals should arrive, provided for example that new variants arrive”.

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Same story for Mircea Sofonia, lecturer at the University of Montpellier: “It is difficult to estimate the remainder because it depends on which sub-variant will take over, and how people will take over this new health context where there are only recommendations and more powerful incentives.

This is why it is possible that we may have a “tenth wave looming nicely but very difficult to pinpoint when,” he analyzed.

For example, the XBB.1.5 variant, which has 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 the impact on hospitals in France.

• Flu is severe but decreasing

This pandemic, which has been particularly severe this year, is not over yet, but as with Covid-19, its peak has been reached. The SPF indicates that the indicators are declining in all age groups and in all urban areas, even if traffic remains active throughout the territory.

“Influenza is still at a high level but we can think we’ve reached the top. There are still patients in hospital, and serious forms of influenza especially in frail and unvaccinated elderly people,” confirmed Philip Amuel.

But he added, “It is important to continue campaigning for this influenza vaccine campaign, especially since we have reached the peak, but it is not excluded that we will have a resurgence, especially among the most vulnerable. The most fragile.”

In fact, since the flu is still in its pandemic phase, it may experience a “slight onset,” warns Mircea Sofonia. The lecturer states that last year or in 2017/2018, “contaminations continued throughout the spring”.

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• Bronchiolitis, soon to be post-epidemic

In early November, the SPF announced that bronchiolitis-related hospitalizations were at a 10-year high. Since December, the epidemic has been declining.

According to the agency, during the week from 9 to 15 January, the prevalence of the virus among newborns allowed Ile-de-France to be declassified in the epidemic phase, while six other regions came out of the “epidemic” red alert. The stage to “post-pandemic” orange.

“The epidemic has already begun to decrease since December, it is a seasonal virus. The development is favorable because we no longer have this crowding in pediatric intensive care units,” noted Philippe Amuel, of Lille University Hospital.

• Towards a return of gastroenteritis?

Another disease caused by a virus that can return, after several secret years, is characterized by respect for barrier gestures: gastroenteritis.

In any case, this is what the professor of public health at Lille University Hospital fears. He warned, “Gastroenteritis should not be long in coming back. It disappeared during the ‘Covid confinement’ period because we used hydroalcoholic gel very extensively. As it is used less and less, hand-to-hand transmission can develop again,” he warned. .

Then Philip Amuel concluded: “We must remain vigilant.”

Caroline Dieudonné with Theo Bottaffi

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