ERs feeling strain of flu epidemic

More than 2million people hit by France’s worst flu epidemic for three years - but experts say the worst is almost over

19 February 2015

HOSPITALS’ emergency departments in France are feeling the strain as the country coughs and sneezes its way through the worst winter flu epidemic for three years.

More than 600,000 new cases of the illness have been reported in the past week, taking the total number of sufferers this year past the two million mark. Since November 1, of 728 serious cases reported, 72 patients have died.

Most victims have been elderly, health authorities have said, with care homes particularly badly affected by this winter’s outbreak.

The situation has prompted the CGT Federation of Health to publicly warn the government of “tension” in certain hospitals, saying that members are “exhausted”, having already dealt with an increase in patients due to the doctors’ dispute.

The epidemic threshold of 143 cases per 100,000 people was passed in the week of January 12. Cases in some parts of France, notably Limousin (1901 cases per 100,000 people), Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (1215) and Midi-Pyrenees (1213) are now about 10 times the official epidemic level.

This year’s particularly virulent outbreak of flu comes after three relatively quiet winters for the illness, and has been made worse because of the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine this year.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, America, said that the reason the flu jab has not worked well this winter could be because of “significant variations in the genome of the virus”, which it says might have occurred between the development of vaccine and when it was rolled out.

Experts believe, however, the epidemic is nearing its peak. The Institute of Health Surveillance said that it expects the number of new cases to slow over the next few days, but warned that people would still be at risk for some time to come.

Also read: France in the grip of flu epidemic

Photo: William Brawley

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