Should we expect a strong comeback of the flu this winter?

The virulence of the flu epidemic which is currently ending in Australia raises fears of an outbreak of the disease this winter. Especially since the French, after two years marked by barrier gestures, are poorly protected.

After two winters marked by barrier gestures and social distancing measures having made it possible to relay the flu to the background, is the viral disease preparing to make its big comeback in France? This is at least what fears Alain Fischer, former “mister vaccine” of the government and immunologist, in an interview granted to the 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 said. declared to our colleagues.

Weak protection of the population

Several signals make it possible to support the scenario put forward by the specialist. First, the absence of major flu waves during the last two winters, which prevented the French from developing antibodies against the disease, thus making them more vulnerable.

“With the last flu seasons which have been small, I think the immunity in the population is low,” Dr. Jennifer Nayak told CNN of the situation in the United States, 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 period of propagation of the flu is from April to October. The trends observed there make it possible to measure the virulence of the coming flu seasons.

However, this year, the cases of flu have been very important in Australia. As reported by Sydney Morning Herald, the number of monthly cases in 2022 has already exceeded those of 2017 and 2019, yet already marked by a significant rate of illnesses and fatal cases. The peak of contamination 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 to 731 last year.

“What happened in Australia is an element of alert”, 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 the flu will be coupled with a new wave of Covid-19.

In the United States as in France, the health services have so far never had to deal with such a situation. “Covid-flu cohabitation is nothing to be happy about. It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalizations”, warned Alain Fischer.

Faced with this dreaded scenario which is gradually becoming more detailed, governments in the United States and in France are betting on vaccination. Both against the flu and against Covid-19.

Encourage vaccination

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 relating to bivalent vaccines, which will finally begin on October 3.

The objective of the HAS was to encourage the French to be vaccinated at the same time against the two viruses. Especially since the rates of vaccination coverage for influenza were hardly encouraging in past 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 franceinfo Tuesday, the Minister of Health François Braun made a point of broadening his remarks to the flu and to all winter infections. “The mask in transport protects you from the flu, from the transmission of bronchiolitis for the child … It is not only a principle of protection for the Covid”, he declared .

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