Health. Winter begins, not the flu virus

While the world is watching Covid-19, the winter flu epidemic has still left no sign of life in France. In its latest bulletin published on 13 January, Public Health France specifies that since 5 October and the implementation of the monitoring system, no serious cases of influenza have been reported by the services participating in the monitoring. Only 11 influenza viruses have been detected on the French mainland (10 in hospitals and 1 in the Sentinelles network which reports cases in general medicine and pediatric consultations), of which at least 2 are people returning from a trip abroad. .

“The impact of influenza still appears to be significantly reduced compared to previous years, thanks to the adoption of barrier movements,” sums up the health organization responsible for monitoring the epidemic.

A 2019/2020 season blurred by Covid

At the same time last year, almost all regions of France, including the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, were already in a so-called “pre-epidemic” situation, and 95 serious cases of influenza in intensive care were identified across the country. And a week later, the epidemic phase had begun. The final report will report nearly 60,000 emergency room visits, including 6,000 hospitalizations, 860 serious admissions to the intensive care unit and 3,700 deaths attributable to influenza during these 9 weeks of the epidemic. However, monitoring was discontinued due to the exceptional health situation associated with the appearance of Covid-19, and the results therefore cover an incomplete period.

An epidemic can start late

Can the situation of dead calm that prevails at the beginning of 2021 on the flu front still change? “Although strict use of barrier movements seems to be the best factor in explaining the absence of a flu epidemic, we must always be careful about viruses, and it is still too early to say that the epidemic will not take place this year. We have already had years when the epidemic started, for example, in mid-January, “indicates Dr. Marianne Sarazin, head of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes / Burgundy-Franche-Comté branch of the Sentinels network.” In general, we are investigating what is happening in the south hemisphere during the southern winter to assess what may await us, and it is true that there have been no significant flu episodes this year. “

No epidemic, but vaccinations

If the epidemic is currently conspicuous by absence, the vaccination campaign was launched this autumn with unusual force. More than a third of vulnerable people had already been vaccinated against influenza by the end of October, compared with 19% at the same time last year, according to figures provided last month by Public Health France.

In the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the vaccination rate among the population at risk (all ages combined) was 47.3% last year, compared to 47.8 at the national level.

Final verdict in a few weeks

The coming weeks will indicate more categorically whether the winter of 2020-2021 will be marked by the absence of a flu epidemic. The current trend in the health sector (general curfew at 18.00, closure of restaurants and bars maintained for at least several weeks, continuation of telework …) at least seems to be able to direct the trend in this direction.