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Unusual rise in respiratory infections in France

Health authorities are analysing the situation with the health minister saying France has six months of antibiotics stocks ready if needed

Health authorities have reported a rise in respiratory complaints in France this winter Pic: Yuri A / Shutterstock

Health authorities in France have warned of an ‘unusual rise’ in respiratory infections in France this winter, especially those caused by the mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria.

The Direction générale de la Santé (DGS) said on November 29 that higher-than-usual cases of “hospitalisation of adults and children in France”.

The bacteria at the root of many of these respiratory issues, mycoplasma pneumoniae, is considered to be “atypical”, it said.

The bacteria has already been subject to increased surveillance in the country after at-home medical service SOS Médécins reported a rise in respiratory complaints among children aged 6-15 at the end of November.

The bacteria typically causes short-lived respiratory infections, usually in children aged four and over, and young adults. Most cases are benign and get better on their own with at-home rest and care, but some people will require antibiotics, and especially severe cases may even need hospitalisation.

As with most respiratory infections, it is spread by droplets in the air from infected people. The incubation period - the time between infection and symptoms occurring - is usually one to three weeks.

The DGS has now said that it is continuing “analyses on a national level to define the characteristics and current dynamic of the epidemic”.

‘Six months of antibiotic stocks’

In response to the increase in respiratory infections, Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau today (November 30) said: “Unlike Covid-19, this is a bacteria that we know well… we have six months of antibiotic stocks to treat any further patients in France.”

Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, but viruses cannot. 

The DGS has called on the national medicines safety agency l’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament (ANSM) to “step up monitoring of the consumption of antibiotics used during the winter period”.

Mr Rousseau added to FranceInfo that all countries in Europe were experiencing the same rise and that the problem was not unique to France.

China has also seen a significant rise in respiratory illnesses this winter, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to report that it is monitoring the situation, four years after the first Covid-19 cases began to emerge.

In France, however, Mr Rousseau said: “I'm trying to stick to one principle…to check the facts”. He added that he was in contact with the WHO “every day” to take stock of the situation, and reiterated that “unlike Covid-19, this bacterium is well-known and is not a virus”.

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