What are key health risks people in France face in next five years?

‘All of these risks exist. We don't know when they will happen, but we know they will happen’, says new expert health report

A new coronavirus and atmospheric pollution are some of the major risks identified in the new report

A new Covid, pollution…these are just some of the conditions that could present a risk to people in France over the next five years, the official committee in charge of anticipating health risks has said.

The most serious risks are those related to conditions that can be spread from animals to humans (as was the case with the coronavirus Covid-19), said le Comité de veille et d'anticipation des risques sanitaires (Covars), in a report published on April 10.

The government had tasked the committee with studying the possible major health crises that could affect the population in France over the next two to five years.

Covars was first put in place during the Covid-19 crisis, and was previously known as the Comité Scientifique. It is made up of some of France’s most high-profile and experienced scientific advisors.

The most likely risks identified include:

  • An infectious respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus or an animal influenza virus

  • Diseases, such as dengue fever and West Nile fevers, transmitted by certain mosquitoes

  • Atmospheric and chemical pollution, which weaken people’s health in the long-term

The report states that climate and environmental changes will also likely play a role, as rising temperatures can cause changes in fauna, flora, the water cycle, and the geography of certain microorganisms and tropical diseases.

This will have an impact on human health in the future, the report predicts.

The experts state, particularly in the case of future epidemics: “All of these risks exist. We don't know when they will happen, but we know they will happen.”

‘Disease X’?

The report also mentions that the country should prepare for a possible ‘disease X’, which is the catch-all term given to the possible spread of a hypothetical, as-yet-unknown pathogen.

Report recommendations

The report shared the committee’s suggested action to prepare and tackle these predicted risks.

Recommendations include:

  • Investing in research to track the evolution of viruses in animal reservoirs

  • More research to monitor respiratory infections

  • The introduction of an emergency plan in the event of an epidemic 

The report also states that anticipating and preventing risks is ever-more important as the French population becomes more elderly and susceptible to health conditions.

Anticipating health crises in advance can help the health system better manage an onslaught of cases, and ensure that it does not become overwhelmed, the experts said.

France’s population is ageing overall: By 2030, the number of people aged 65 and over will outnumber those under 20.