The bronchiolitis epidemic in France begins faster and earlier than usual, warns Public Health France

The bronchiolitis epidemic is beginning to worry the health authorities. The numbers show “A quicker and earlier start” circulation of the virus, writes Public Health France (SPF) in its epidemiological bulletin published Wednesday October 13. The Ile-de-France and Grand-Est regions have gone “Epidemic phase” last week and all other metropolitan areas as well as Guyana went into “Pre-epidemic phase”.

Nearly 1,780 children under the age of 2 were seen in the emergency room for bronchiolitis between October 4 and 10, an increase of 38% from the previous week. More than a third of them (36%) were hospitalized. Bronchiolitis represented 9% of emergency room visits for children under 2 in France last week.

In Ile-de-France, the five pediatric intensive care units are saturated three weeks in advance, highlighted The Parisian. The regional health agency (ARS) has reactivated its crisis cells, while this epidemic affects hospital services already scalded by Covid-19, and weakened by the lack of personnel in some cases.

An epidemic which could be “of great magnitude”

Every year bronchiolitis affects 30% of infants less than 2 years old between October and the end of winter, with a peak of the epidemic generally reached in December. Last winter, the epidemic was postponed in time due to Covid-19 and was less severe than in previous years: 2,500 weekly emergency visits in France during the peak, against 5,000 in a normal season.

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Experts fear the trend will reverse this year. “The favorable epidemiological situation of SARS-CoV-2, the lifting of restrictions on international transport and the poor application of barrier measures will once again allow viral circulation of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)”, warned the scientific council in its opinion of 5 October. “The bronchiolitis epidemic could be large given a significant acquired herd immunity deficit for children born after March 2020”, according to the notice.

Very contagious, bronchiolitis causes coughs and difficult, rapid, wheezing in babies. It is mainly due to RSV, which adults and older children usually carry without having symptoms, hence specific recommendations on the preventive actions to adopt to avoid contaminating an infant.

Although it can be distressing for parents, most of the time bronchiolitis is mild. However, it may require a visit to the emergency room, or even hospitalization: between 2 and 3% of babies under one year old are affected each year. SPF advises seeing a doctor promptly if an infant is embarrassed to breathe or has difficulty eating or breastfeeding. In some cases, if the child is less than 6 weeks old, if he already has a respiratory disease, or if it is a former premature baby of less than 3 months, the agency recommends going quickly to the emergency room.

The World with AFP

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