Why winter diseases are likely to make a comeback

It coughs. It sniffles. It blows its nose and it sneezes. In the subway, in the office, in the supermarket, everywhere. The most hypochondriacs among us would almost feel like we could see the miasma spreading with the naked eye, there, under the gray skies and the well-chilled temperatures of autumn.

If we hadn’t missed them, there is no doubt that winter illnesses – which strike in the fall – are about to sign their big comeback. Between the cases of Covid-19, angina and other nasopharyngitis join the viral festivities. Raising the specter of major epidemics this winter.

“We have seen the recovery for two weeks”

The figures already show it: during the week of September 19 to 25, “the incidence rate of cases of acute respiratory infection (ARI) seen in general medicine consultation was estimated at 127 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, observes the network Sentinels in its latest ARI surveillance bulletin, including Covid-19, seasonal flu and all respiratory viruses. An increase in the rate compared to the previous week (93 cases per 100,000)”. And which has almost doubled in two weeks: the week of September 5 to 11, the incidence rate was “66 cases per 100,000 inhabitants”, according to the health surveillance network.

A finding that materializes in general medicine practices. “We see it in consultation: there has been a resumption of winter viruses for two weeks, confirms Dr. Luc Duquesnel, general practitioner and president of the Les Généralistes-CSMF union. Beyond the Covid-19 which is starting again, we also have many cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which gives the same ENT picture: runny nose, sore throat, fever, body aches. So yes, it is increasing.

And toddlers are not spared either: “It is RSV that gives nasopharyngitis, angina and causes dry coughs, details the general practitioner. Children contaminate themselves before contaminating their parents.

“The fear of a strong flu epidemic”

If the epidemic milestone is still far from being crossed, which is normal at this time of year, the figures should get carried away in the coming weeks. “In addition to angina and nasopharyngitis, we can expect the return of episodes of gastroenteritis in the coming weeks. But also and above all seasonal flu, in co-circulation with Covid-19”, warns Dr Duquesnel. As the eighth wave of Covid-19 is already beginning.

A risk of a double epidemic against which Professor Alain Fischer, former government anti-Covid vaccine, also warns, who fears a virulent return of the flu. And a set of data from the other side of the globe fuels his fears: the figures for the flu epidemic in Australia, which is raging in the heart of what is our summer, and which corresponds to the southern winter. According to the Australian Department of Health, the country has just had its worst flu season in at least five years.

A scenario that could unfold in France this winter. “If we do not manage to vaccinate more patients against the flu than we did last winter, there is obviously the fear of an epidemic of flu”, worries Dr. Duquesnel, then that the seasonal flu vaccination campaign is to be launched on October 18.

“A major challenge to achieve better control of respiratory infections”

So, “we will have to remobilize a population that is fed up with infections and vaccines”, explained Professor Fischer in his interview granted Wednesday to the Parisian. And there is urgency: “When we see the ease with which people have abandoned barrier gestures when we are in full recovery from the coronavirus, this can give rise to fears for the coming weeks”, adds Dr Duquesnel.

“Whether with Covid-19, seasonal flu or other seasonal viruses, there is a real public health challenge to better control all these infectious respiratory infections, insists Dr. Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist and referring doctor. Covid-19 crisis at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches. For nearly three years, behaviors have changed, but a relaxation is regularly observed on barrier gestures ”.

However, as doctors have pointed out since the start of the pandemic and even before: “Respect for barrier measures plays a decisive role in controlling these epidemics, underlines Dr Duquesnel. Remember the winter of 2020-2021, the barrier measures were strictly observed by the population and we had not had these epidemics of winter diseases. No flu, no bronchiolitis. Maybe wearing the mask in transport would be a good first step to protect yourself more. That, and vaccinating eligible people.”

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