The virulence of the influenza epidemic, which is currently ending in Australia, is raising fears of an outbreak of the disease this winter. Especially since the French are poorly protected after two years characterized by barrier movements.
After two winters marked by barrier movements and social distancing measures that have allowed the flu to fade into the background, is the viral disease preparing to make its big comeback in France? At least this is what Alain Fischer, former government “mister vaccine” and immunologist, fears in an interview given to Parisian this Wednesday.
“This year it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing… Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of an influenza epidemic”, he told our colleagues.
Weak protection of the population
Several signals make it possible to support the scenario presented by the specialist. First, the absence of major flu waves during the past two winters, which prevented the French from developing antibodies against the disease and thus made them more vulnerable.
“With the last few flu seasons, which have been small, I think the immunity in the population is low,” said Dr. Jennifer Nayak to CNN on the situation in the US, similar to France.
Another worrying element is the situation in the southern hemisphere. In this part of the globe, where the seasons are reversed compared to the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season is from April to October. The observed trends make it possible to measure the virulence in the coming flu seasons.
But this year the cases of influenza have been very important in Australia. As reported by Sydney Morning Herald, the number of monthly cases in 2022 has already exceeded the number of 2017 and 2019, yet characterized by a significant frequency of diseases and fatal cases. The peak of pollution was even reached much earlier. On the side of the figures, the observation is without appeal. 147,000 cases of influenza have been confirmed by Australian laboratories this year, compared with 731 last year.
“What happened in Australia is an element of alarm”, recognized Alain Fischer in The Parisian.
“A very bad flu season”
In the United States, Anthony Fauci, medical adviser to the President of the United States, has already warned the Americans. They must prepare for “a very bad flu season”. The immunologist even fears that this comeback of influenza will be coupled with a new wave of Covid-19.
In the USA as in France, the healthcare system has so far never had to deal with such a situation. “Covid-influenza cohabitation is not something to be happy about. It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalizations”, warned Alain Fischer.
Faced with this feared scenario, which is gradually becoming more detailed, governments in the United States and in France are betting on vaccination. Both against flu and against Covid-19.
In its opinion on the approval of bivalent vaccines targeting both the original strain of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) recommended that the government link the start date of vaccination against influenza, set for October 18 at the start of the vaccination campaign regarding bivalent vaccines, which finally begins on October 3.
The purpose of HAS was to encourage the French to be vaccinated against the two viruses at the same time. Especially since influenza vaccination coverage rates were hardly encouraging in recent years. For the 2021-2022 flu season, only 52.6% of French people were vaccinated, as reported by Santé Publique France.
Asked about Covid-19 by france info On Tuesday, Health Minister François Braun made a point to extend his remarks to the flu and to all winter infections. “The mask in transport protects you against influenza, against the transmission of bronchiolitis for the child … It is not only a principle of protection against Covid”, he declared.