This beginning of the year 2023 is marked by a sharp decline in the three epidemics of Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, even if the risk of recovery persists according to certain experts.
“The worst is over.” In mid-December, hospital staff, asphyxiated, called for help in the face of a triple epidemic. The 9th wave of Covid-19, a very widespread flu virus and an unprecedented bronchiolitis epidemic in 10 years had forced François Braun, the Minister of Health, to multiply calls for vaccination and the return of barrier gestures before the Christmas and New Year.
“For the three epidemics, Covid-19, influenza and bronchiolitis, the peaks for these three respiratory viruses are behind us, the trends are down”, reassured 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 outbursts which could again weaken the French hospital system, already in agony.
• The end of the ninth wave of Covid-19
The ninth wave of Covid-19 contamination, which peaked around mid-December, now seems behind us.
“We went from around thirty tests per day to 5-6 tests per day. The Covid fell suddenly”, testified Frédéric Desmoulins, pharmacist in Issy-les-Moulineaux.
According to the latest data from SPF, from January 9 to 15, the incidence and positivity rates are decreasing in all metropolitan areas. Ditto for the rate of new hospitalizations, critical care admissions and deaths.
But health professionals are not crying victory too quickly because the prospect of a new wave is not excluded. For Philippe Amouyel, professor of public health at the Lille University Hospital, “we are at the start of the endemic phase, other resurgences should arrive, conditioned for example on the arrival of new variants”.
Same story for Mircea Sofonea, lecturer at the University of Montpellier: “The rest is difficult to estimate because it depends on which sub-variant will take over, on how people will take hold of this new health context where there are only recommendations and more strong incentives.
This is why we could “very well have a 10th wave looming on the horizon but it is very difficult to say when”, he analyzed.
For example, the XBB.1.5 subvariant, which appeared 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 decreasing
This epidemic, particularly severe this year, is not yet over, but as with Covid-19, a peak has been reached. SPF indicates that the indicators are decreasing in all age groups and in all metropolitan areas, even if traffic remains active throughout the territory.
“The flu remains at a high level but we can think that we have reached the top. There are still hospitalized patients, serious forms of flu mainly in frail people, unvaccinated elderly people”, assured Philippe Amouyel .
But he added: “It is important to continue to campaign for this flu vaccine campaign, especially since we have reached the peak, but it is not excluded that we may have resurgences, particularly among the most vulnerable people. more fragile.”
Indeed, being still in the epidemic phase, the flu could experience a “slight start”, warns Mircea Sofonea. The lecturer recalls that last year or in 2017/2018, “the contaminations continued throughout the spring”.
• Bronchiolitis, soon to be in the post-epidemic phase
In early November, SPF announced that bronchiolitis-related hospitalizations were at their highest level in 10 years. Since December, the epidemic has been on the decline.
According to the agency, during the week of January 9 to 15, the circulation of the virus among newborns allowed Île-de-France to no longer be considered in the epidemic phase, while six other regions are went from an “epidemic” red alert stage to “post-epidemic” orange.
“The epidemic has already been decreasing 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, from the Lille University Hospital.
• Towards a return of gastroenteritis?
Another disease caused by a virus could make a comeback, after several discreet years, marked by respect for barrier gestures: gastroenteritis.
In any case, this is what the professor of public health at the Lille University Hospital fears. “Gastroenteritis should not be long in coming back. They had disappeared during the ‘Covid confinement’ period because we used hydro-alcoholic gel very widely. As it is used less and less, hand-held transmission can develop again”, he warned.
Philippe Amoyel then concluded: “We must remain vigilant.”
Caroline Dieudonné with Théo Putavy