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Winter flu reaches pre-epidemic levels in southeast France and Corsica

Viruses are continuing to spread across the country, including flu and bronchiolitis, although there are regional disparities, a new report shows. Covid hospital pressure remains high

Cases of winter flu are continuing to spread across France, especially in the southeast and Corsica. Fewer cases last year due to Covid measures mean that there is less immunity this year.

Flu is reaching pre-epidemic proportions in some areas, suggests a new report by Santé publique France (SPF) from February 2.

In a statement, SPF said that during the fourth week of January, “the evolution of influenza activity was variable” across France, with "influenza and influenza-like illness indicators…on the rise in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Corsica”.

Corsica has now entered a “pre-epidemic” phase, it said, while decreasing cases in Ile-de-France show that the urban region is now “transitioning to the post-epidemic phase”.

"In the other regions, influenza activity was stable,” it said.

Last year, the number of cases of flu was on the decrease overall, as lockdowns and anti-Covid measures stopped all viruses from spreading.

However, this means that there is less immunity to flu this year, enabling the epidemic to spread more. 

Bronchiolitis updates

Bronchiolitis, which mainly affects infants, has also been spreading for the same reason.

Last week, it was at epidemic proportions in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Centre-Val de Loire, Occitanie, and Pays de la Loire. 

It is now officially on the decline in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Brittany, Normandy, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, and has been over for some time in Ile-de-France.

In better news, SPF said that they are seeing “a drop in the number of emergency admissions and hospitalisations after emergency visits due to bronchiolitis in children under 2”.

Covid situation ‘remains fragile’

It comes as Covid continues to put pressure on hospitals. 

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal yesterday (February 2) told government ministers: “The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 is the highest we have seen since the beginning of this epidemic – over 30,000 patients. It's extremely high. There is still a lot of pressure on hospitals.”

He added: “The situation remains fragile because we are still seeing a very high level of declared cases, because of the subvariant BA.2, which seems even more contagious. 

“We have seen in other countries – such as Denmark – that it has quickly become dominant and has caused another spike in cases, and there is still extremely high tension in hospitals.”

However, Mr Attal explained that the tide is beginning to turn. 

He said: "Since the end of last week, there have been fewer cases reported each day than on the same day the week before. For the first time in a while, we have, over a week, seen a decrease in the incidence rate at the national level.”

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