Common and highly contagious, bronchiolitis causes babies to cough and difficult to breathe. Even if it is most of the time benign, it may require a visit to the emergency room, or even hospitalization.
Bronchiolitis season is coming a long way ahead this year. In his last weekly bulletin, published this Wednesday, Public Health France warns on “the strong and early increase in surveillance indicators” of this respiratory disease which affects babies, especially during winter.
According to the agency, all regions of mainland France are already at the epidemic stage, with the exception of Brittany, as shown in our map below. At the same time last year
Towards a “large-scale” epidemic this winter?
Beginning of October, the Scientific Council, which guides the French government, already warned that “the epidemic of bronchiolitis could be of great magnitude” this year. The data from Public Health France point in this direction: the bronchiolitis epidemic of this autumn 2021 is for the moment much stronger than in previous years. Most of the time benign, the disease can nevertheless lead some children to the hospital.
Last week, more than 10% of emergency room visits for children under the age of 2 were consultations linked to bronchiolitis – an unprecedented level in this season according to data from Public Health France, which dates back to 2010. In average, the rate is rather around 6% in this season – it was significantly lower last year, because the confinements and anti-Covid barrier gestures have blocked the circulation of viruses.
The infographic below allows you to compare the intensity of the epidemic of 2021 to those of previous years.
Why is the epidemic already so strong?
With confinements and barrier gestures, few children were therefore infected in 2020 by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), responsible for bronchiolitis. This therefore also means that they were less immune to RSV, recalls the French Scientific Council. in its opinion of 5 October.
“The bronchiolitis epidemic could be large given a significant acquired immunity deficit for children born after March 2020. (…) The favorable epidemiological situation of (Covid-19), the lifting of restrictions on international transport, and the poor enforcement of barrier measures will allow respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) viral circulation again in the coming months. “
If the epidemic reaches unprecedented levels for mid-October, it is nevertheless difficult to know it will continue to spread at this rate for months, recalls Professor Sylvain Renolleau, head of the pediatric intensive care unit of the Hospital. Necker in Paris.
“It is not possible for us for the moment to say if this epidemic will be more important than those of the previous usual years. (…) In other countries such as the United States or Australia, where they have seen an earlier start in the season “, the epidemic did not necessarily turn out to be” more serious than in previous years “.
“Strict compliance with barrier measures”
Asked by AFP, Dr Fabienne Kochert, president of the French Association for Ambulatory Pediatrics (Afpa), recommends “strict compliance with barrier measures”. For example, she advises not to take “babies under 3 months into supermarkets and” to keep a minimum of distance. “Kisses to babies should also be avoided; if it is due to RSV, a cold in an adult can give bronchiolitis in a toddler.
If in the vast majority of cases, children recover quickly from viral respiratory infections and will not have any after-effects from their stay in hospital, the situation is more delicate for children suffering from other pathologies, whether cardiac or respiratory. Or other.