Only eleven more sleeps before Christmas Eve. While the little ones count the days until the presents are unwrapped, the big ones (finally Santa Claus) rush to the shops for the last shopping.
And after almost three years of pandemic, the Covid-19 does not let go. It signs a ninth epidemic wave while other viral infections have also made a comeback. Contaminations and hospitalizations on the rise, vaccination on the decline. A few days before New Year’s Eve, can we still avoid the catastrophy – and the contagion – during the holidays?
Ninth wave, triple epidemic and closed windows
The waves of Covid-19 follow and resemble each other. Except that “the situation is particular at the end of the year: two years ago, the coronavirus was omnipresent, and the other winter viruses were extinct; last year, the flu epidemic was very late and weak, recalls Dr Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine). There, this ninth wave of Omicron has the particularity of breaking at the same time as a severe wave of influenza and bronchiolitis. With an increase in hospitalizations for respiratory infections. Where before, it was almost only Covid, we are seeing a strong comeback of all the other respiratory infectious diseases ”.
Another detail worries the infectious disease specialist. “We are at the heart of a month of December which is likely to be the coldest in the last ten years, and we are entering this period of winter against a background of energy sobriety, completely obscuring the problem of the quality of indoor air. It’s super cold, we dread power cuts and we tell people: “turn down the heating and avoid wasting energy”. Everyone stays windows closed, at home as in closed public places, and without a mask, he underlines. Either the best cocktail to increase the contamination figures ”.
And on the figures side, precisely, the fears are verified. Public Health France thus observes a “viral circulation still increasing. Despite the strike movements of certain private medical biology laboratories, the majority of virological indicators as well as those concerning the use of care showed that the epidemic was still progressing. And also notes in its latest epidemiological bulletin a 29% increase in emergency room visits (+29%) for suspicion of Covid. At the same time, “hospitalizations for bronchiolitis represent for the fifth consecutive week half of hospitalizations following a visit to the emergency room in children under 2 years old”. As well as a “very sharp increase in hospitalizations, particularly among those aged 65 and over” for cases of influenza.
The neglected vaccination
However, the busy epidemic weather at the moment does not seem to encourage the crowds to get vaccinated. Faced with this observation, the Minister of Health, François Braun, has mentioned in recent days a “serious situation”. Only “2.8 million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 since the beginning of October, this is much less than our European neighbors”, he underlined. Same observation for the flu: “9.9 million vaccines were sold in pharmacies”, down 5% compared to 2021.
Logical consequence: “the French are less well protected”, lamented the minister, who “solemnly calls for a jump in vaccination”. And who also called “solemnly on the responsibility” of the directors of Ehpad to accelerate the vaccination against Covid-19 of the residents, of whom only a fifth are vaccinated. In addition to the elderly, those with comorbidities and pregnant women, “everyone can be vaccinated”, repeated François Braun, thus judging “completely normal” to be vaccinated “if you go to see your elderly parents during the parties”.
Because on the timing side, “we are still largely good, reassures Dr. Davido. We still have about ten days to do our Omicron reminder, which will quickly stimulate immunity: it starts to be effective after three days and the peak of antibody production is after seven days, so it’s now that ‘we have to go “.
The right gestures to save Christmas
And if for Christmas, it is no longer suggested as two years ago to send “Grandpa and Grandma in the kitchen” during the meal, the traditional barrier gestures remain de rigueur. “Everyone has relaxed, there is weariness and distrust of the Covid, notes Dr Davido. People are fed up with the vaccine, the mask, the constraint, and they have become used to these epidemic waves and their disastrous effects on the health of the French people and on the hospital. But the viral infections are there, and there is only vaccination and barrier gestures to counter them”.
Among them, “wash your hands, ventilate regularly and wear a mask in closed places”, recalled François Braun. “These gestures are effective against all viral infections,” adds Dr. Davido. We also avoid transgenerational hugs, especially with more fragile people. And we get tested at the slightest doubt. In pharmacies, “we have observed a rebound in demand for tests, and an increase in sales of self-tests in recent days”, indicates Pierre-Olivier Variot, president of the Union of Syndicates of Pharmacy Dispensers (USPO), which awaits the arrival of tests of a new kind. “Tests capable of simultaneously detecting influenza and Covid-19 for adults, but also bronchiolitis for children”. This “would make the general public even more responsible,” says Dr. Davido. But if the HAS “is attentive to this test still in the trial phase, to date it has not been the subject of a referral from the laboratory which developed it”, replies the health agency at 20 minutes.
In the meantime, “we continue to screen ourselves and isolate ourselves when we are sick, even if it is not the Covid, specifies Dr Davido. I see a lot of sick people who, on the pretext of a negative Covid test, cough in your face saying: “don’t worry, it’s not the Covid”. So the message is simple: everyone keeps their miasma, and we wear a mask when we are symptomatic. It is safer for everyone to wear it in crowded closed public places: transport, offices and department stores”. A responsibility for the individual time, the Minister of Health having ruled out making the mask compulsory, explaining that there are “simple gestures which do not need a text”.
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