Return of viruses and bacteria: what you need to know when the French will meet for the holidays

Return of viruses and bacteria: what you need to know when the French will meet for the holidays

After a particularly mild autumn, winter is on its way and signals the return of viruses and bacteria which proliferate particularly during the winter season which is just beginning. Here are some useful reminders, with the expertise of Doctor Paul Loubet, infectious disease doctor at the University Hospital of Nîmes.

After a particularly mild autumn, winter has come to an end, signaling the return of viruses and bacteria which proliferate particularly during the winter season. Which can be the cause of severe diseases in populations at risk: seniors and chronically ill people.

This is why we have been talking about vaccination for several weeks, to both protect ourselves and protect others. Without forgetting that the protection conferred by the vaccines also makes it possible not to saturate the hospital services regularly under tension. Here are some useful reminders when the French are going to meet for the holidays.

Winter infections: what are we talking about?

In winter, many viruses and bacteria circulate and are responsible for epidemics. According to Public Health France and the WHO “the transmission of seasonal viruses and bacteria occurs via different vectors:

– Virus-laden droplets emitted during coughing, sneezing or by the sputter and saliva of people infected with a respiratory virus;
– Direct contact of the hands of an infected person with another person (for example by shaking hands) or by contact with objects (toys, comforters, pacifiers, elevator buttons, cutlery, etc.) contaminated with a sick person.”

Pneumonia, Flu, Covid-19: what are the risks associated with these respiratory infections?

Little known to the general public, pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. They are responsible in particular for pulmonary complications, known as pneumonia, of which they are the primary cause. “Pneumonia are potentially serious diseases, especially in people over the age of 65 and / or weakened by a chronic disease”, explains Dr. Paul Loubet, infectious disease doctor at the CHU de Nîmes. The pneumococcus is thus responsible for 10,000 deaths each year.

The flu epidemic affects between 2 and 6 million people each year. More than 90% of flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65. As for SARS-CoV-2, it has been responsible for more than 2 million deaths in Europe since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly among the elderly and people at risk.

Whether it is influenza, pneumococcus or even SARS-CoV-2, complications are more frequent and more serious in people at risk. For example, the risk of occurrence of a pneumococcal infection is multiplied by 4 in the presence of a chronic pathology and by 23 to 48 in people immunocompromised due to cancer. When it comes to SARS-CoV-2, the risks of hospitalization are more than 8 times higher among those aged 85 and over compared to those aged 40-44, and deaths in hospital for Covid-19 almost 200 times higher.

Who should be concerned about vaccination against these infections?

“A person at risk is a person who, because of their age or a chronic pathology such as diabetes, renal, cardiac or respiratory insufficiency, will be at greater risk of developing a serious form of the disease and/or complications,” says Dr. Paul Loubet.

“During the pandemic, we used this term a lot, but even today, many people do not consider themselves to be at risk. And let’s also remember that it is possible to accumulate these infections, thus exposing them to even greater risks. C “This is why co-vaccination is strongly recommended. A person at risk can very well receive the same day vaccines against influenza, SARS-Cov-2 and pneumococcus”.

Can we predict in advance the importance of the flu epidemic that will rage this year?

“The data from Australia showed that the flu epidemic was earlier and more intense than the years before the pandemic”, underlines Dr Loubet. “It circulated concomitantly with the Covid-19, which caused strong tensions on the hospital system”.

Are we sufficiently protected against these infections?

In the context of a still active circulation of SARS-CoV-2, and with the approach of winter, only 41% of 60-79 year olds and 53.5% of 80 and over among eligible people (according to the time since their last injection) had received a second booster on November 14, 2022. More generally, the proportion of people vaccinated against these infections is still too low. “The problem is vaccination coverage,” confirms Dr. Loubet.

“Against the flu, we painfully reached 52.7% in 2021/2022. For vaccination against pneumococcal we have surprisingly low figures, with less than 5% of adults at risk who are vaccinated. Regarding SARS-Cov- 2, 10% of people over 75 are not vaccinated and only 40% have a complete vaccination schedule (having received a 2nd booster)”.

In addition to vaccination, what are the right actions to take to protect yourself?

Simple preventive measures can reduce the transmission of infections during an epidemic. These “barrier gestures” block viruses and bacteria and help protect yourself and those around you:

– Wear a mask;

– Greet each other without shaking hands or kissing;

– Wash one’s hands ;

– Ventilate the rooms;

– Cough and sneeze into his elbow.

To find out more about vaccination and simple actions to best limit the risk of infection, Pfizer has developed the website www.objectifpreventionsante.fr.

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