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‘Flu epidemic has killed 22 in France, agency warns

Winter ‘flu has already killed 22 people in France this season, as the epidemic worsens across the country, health agency Santé Publique France has confirmed.

At a time when the Wuhan coronavirus is dominating the headlines, the French health agency issued the ‘flu warning in its weekly report on January 29.

The victims - 22 since November - include 12 cases of people aged 15 to 64, along with two children aged under 15, and eight elderly people aged 65 and over.

An epidemic has been declared across all regions in metropolitan France, with the exception of Normandy. Last week, there were 190 ‘flu consultations reported across the country, a significant rise compared to the week before (122).

‘Flu-like symptoms reported by home visiting service SOS-Médecins had also increased over the past week, Santé Publique France said, from 7.3% the week before, to 11.3% last week.

Hospital visits - with or without eventual admission - for ‘flu or ‘flu-like symptoms had also significantly increased, the agency said, with 5,514 and 460 respectively last week, versus 3,480 and 335 the week before.

It said: “[Hospital] visits main concern children aged five and under (35%) and those aged 15-44 (31%). Hospitalisations concern mainly children under five (29%) and people aged 75 and over (21%).”

Since November, the agency said that 244 severe ‘flu cases had been reported, with 53 the average age of patients admitted to hospital. Of these, 75% had additional risk factors, such as being aged over 65, or with chronic conditions such as diabetes or a lack of heart or lung function.

Every year, ‘flu affects 2 million-6 million people in France, and is linked to the death of more than 10,000 people.

Santé Publique France reminded people that the best way to avoid infection is to have a ‘flu vaccination as early as possible - as it can take up to two weeks to become effective - and to wash your hands regularly with water and soap, or anti-bacterial gel.

Anyone with a cough should cover their mouth with their elbow rather than their hands, or use a single-use tissue, and wash their hands after coughing.

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