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

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

In its weekly bulletin on the bronchiolitis outbreak published on Wednesday, Santé Publique France highlighted the unprecedented nature of the wave currently sweeping France. The number of emergency visits and hospitalizations is “more than 10 years higher than at the peak of the epidemic.”

Health Minister Francois Brown said this in the Senate on Wednesday The Orsan plan was to be launched in French hospitals, coping with a large number of hospitalizations. Still, between October 31 and November 6, 6,891 emergency room visits related to bronchiolitis were recorded, according to Sante Publique France. This Orsan plan specifically provides for the deprogramming and requisitioning of caregivers when necessary.

Hospital crisis

But how to explain this strong return of bronchiolitis after a relative calm during the Covid-19 pandemic, which protected the little ones with successive arrests and barrier gestures? For experts interviewed by, what is responsible for the situation described by Francois Braun is not the exceptional case of the epidemic, but the inability of the French hospital system to accommodate the requests for hospitalization presented to it. .

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

For the doctor, “10 years ago, we were able to take care of children. It’s not like that anymore, the hospitals are out of blood and we have to fight a strong epidemic. The government has actually launched its white plan to deal with the emergency.”

Words echoed by an open letter sent by more than 7,000 childminders on October 22 to raise awareness of the overcrowding of services.

Challenges of urban medicine

Contacted by, general practitioner Yvon Le Flohic said, “We can wonder if the hospital is the right size, if we will start running the white plan with every outbreak …”. The latter believe that the gradual reduction of general practitioners and paediatricians in the city is contributing to the overcrowding of emergency cases.

“In recent years, we have observed the disappearance of general practitioners in the city, along with pediatricians. In France, 6 million people do not have a general practitioner. That is, these are people who go directly to the doctor as soon as their child is affected. hospital,” he said.

According to Sylvie Hubinois, a liberal pediatrician in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, it has so far trained only 300 pediatricians each year. A number that has increased slightly, but remains insufficient. “Pediatrics in France has always been weak, we have few pediatricians per capita compared to our European neighbors with urban pediatric systems,” laments the doctor.

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

Disruption caused by Covid-19?

Structural problems aside, the fact remains that the current epidemic of bronchiolitis remains a health concern. Experts interviewed emphasize the possible regulatory role played by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years, reminding that these are only hypotheses.

Sylvie Hubinois recalls that in the winter of 2020, the epidemic was contained due to arrests and barrier gestures, before returning in the winter of 2021 due to the easing of epidemic prevention measures.

For Véronique Hentgen, “we only have assumptions about the vitality of this year. All epidemics since Covid-19 are irregular”. This is evidenced by the fact that many cases of bronchiolitis this autumn were recorded very early, as early as October.

Yvon Le Flohic, “We can ask ourselves the question of the ecosystem of epidemics, all of which are affected by Covid-19, which are very powerful.”

Don’t overexpose your children

Parents are urged to be careful in this unpleasant context. Especially since the slowing of the increase in cases can only be attributed to school holidays, it may lead to a decrease in contact between children. Véronique Hentgen warns: “It can start again later!”.

For pediatricians contacted by, it’s important for parents of young children to take precautions, especially when they’re under three months old. Bronchiolitis occurs mainly in newborns and is caused by the RSV virus. Symptoms that should be alarming are fever, difficulty breathing and eating.

“Overcrowded places, such as shopping malls, should be avoided. Even if it seems very prudent during family meals, you should not pass the baby from arm to arm!”, Sylvie Hubinois insists.

Before remembering that bronchiolitis is mostly benign. “When a child is still eating properly, they need to see their pediatrician or general practitioner, not the emergency room.”

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