How to explain the magnitude of the bronchiolitis epidemic this year?

How to explain the magnitude of the bronchiolitis epidemic this year?

For the pediatricians interviewed by, the crisis in pediatric services in France explains the saturation of public hospitals. On Wednesday, the Minister of Health launched the Orsan plan.

In its weekly bulletin on the bronchiolitis epidemic published on Wednesday, Santé Publique France underlined the unprecedented nature of the wave currently sweeping France. The number of emergency visits and hospitalizations is “at levels higher than those seen in epidemic peaks for more than 10 years.”

Wednesday in the Senate, the Minister of Health, François Braun, indicated that the Orsan plan was going to be launched in French hospitals, to cope with the large number of hospitalizations. Still according to Santé Publique France, 6,891 emergency room visits related to bronchiolitis were recorded from October 31 to November 6. This Orsan plan provides, in particular, for the deprogramming and the requisition of caregivers if necessary.

The hospital crisis

But how to explain this strong resurgence of bronchiolitis, after a relative calm during the Covid-19 pandemic, which with its successive lockdowns and barrier gestures protected the little ones? For the specialists interviewed by, it is not so much an exceptional epidemic phenomenon that is responsible for the situation described by François Braun, but rather the inability of the French hospital system to absorb the requests for hospitalization that are presented to it.

“Currently, the hospital is like a sinking ship. And the bronchiolitis epidemic is a bit of a storm that can sink it”, analyzes for Véronique Hengten, a pediatrician at the Versailles hospital center.

For the doctor, “10 years ago we could care for children. This is no longer the case, hospitals are without blood and we also have to deal with a strong epidemic. In fact, the government has triggered the white plan to deal with the emergency” .

Words that resonate with the open letter sent on October 22 by more than 7,000 pediatric caregivers, to alert about the saturation of services.

The difficulties of city medicine

“We can ask ourselves if there is a correct dimensioning of the hospital, if with each epidemic we begin to unleash a white plan…”, Yvon Le Flohic, a general practitioner contacted by, abounds. The latter believes that the gradual reduction of general practitioners and pediatricians in the city contributes to emergency congestion.

“In recent years, we have seen a disappearance of pediatricians in the city, but also of general practitioners. In France, 6 million people do not have general practitioners. So, these are people who, as soon as it affects their child, go directly to the doctor. hospitable,” he said.

According to Sylvie Hubinois, a liberal pediatrician from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France has so far only trained 300 pediatricians a year. A number that has increased slightly, but is still insufficient. “Pediatrics in France has always been weak, we have few pediatricians per capita compared to our European neighbors who also have a pediatric system in the city,” laments the doctor.

“In the city, we are overwhelmed, in addition to the usual consultations, pediatricians have to manage 10 to 15 emergencies a day”, continues Sylvie Hubinois.

An interruption caused by Covid-19?

Apart from the structural problems, the fact is that the current epidemic of bronchiolitis is still important from a health point of view. All the specialists interviewed underline the possible deregulatory role that the Covid-19 pandemic has had in the last two years, while recalling that these are only hypotheses.

During the winter of 2020, the epidemic had been contained thanks to lockdowns and barrier gestures, recalls Sylvie Hubinois, before it returned in the winter of 2021, due to the relaxation of the epidemic curbing measures.

For Véronique Hentgen, “about the vigor of this year, we only have hypotheses. All epidemics have been disorganized since Covid-19”. Proof of this is that this fall many cases of bronchiolitis were reported very early, as early as October.

“We can ask ourselves the question of the epidemic ecosystem, which seems to have all been impacted by Covid-19, which due to its power has occupied a lot of space”, Yvon Le Flohic abounds.

Do not expose your children too much

In this unfavorable context, parents are urged to be cautious. Especially since the slowdown in the increase in cases could only be linked to school holidays, which leads to a reduction in contact between children. “It’s better to start over later!” warns Véronique Hentgen.

For the pediatricians contacted by, it is imperative that parents of young children, especially when they are less than three months old, take precautions. Bronchiolitis is triggered mainly in young children and is caused by a virus, RSV. The symptoms that should alarm are fever, difficulty breathing and eating.

“It is absolutely necessary to avoid crowded places, shopping malls, for example. And during family meals, you should not pass the baby from arm to arm, even if it means looking too cautious!” insists Sylvie Hubinois.

Before remembering that bronchiolitis is in the vast majority of cases benign. “When the child continues to eat well, it is not necessary to go to the emergency room, but to his pediatrician or his family doctor.”

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