The Covid-19 epidemic is on the rise again in France, at the same time as other acute respiratory infections are spreading, such as influenza and bronchiolitis, according to the latest bulletin from Public Health France dated Wednesday December 6. A triple epidemic which raises fears of additional tension on the health system, and in the face of which the government reiterates its calls for vaccination, in particular for people at risk.
Activity linked to Covid-19 was thus “slightly increasing in community medicine and hospitals, particularly among those aged 65 and over”, analyzes Public Health France. Influenza/influenza syndrome indicators were also increasing in community medicine and generally stable in hospital.
A slightly more resistant Covid variant
This increase in the number of infections could be linked to the emergence of a new variant: JN.1. Since the start of the pandemic, several variants of SARS-CoV-2 have had an influence on public health, depending on their level of transmissibility, the severity of the infection or the immune escape caused. This newcomer comes from the family of Omicron variants, “characterized by less severe clinical forms, partly thanks to preserved vaccine effectiveness against serious forms”, recalls Public health Francein a bulletin dedicated to the monitoring of variants in France.
But a team from the Pasteur Institute having carried out initial laboratory tests estimates that “JN.1 appears a little more resistant to neutralizing antibodies” than its predecessor BA.2.86, of which it is a sublineage, indicates to Parisian Olivier Schwartz, from the Virus and Immunity unit. It could therefore be that a vaccinated person resists JN.1 less well than other forms of Sars-Cov-2, and that it spreads more easily.
For the moment, Public Health France estimates that “the increase in JN.1 has not been associated with an epidemic resumption” in recent weeks. But WHO recently classified JN.1 as a “variant to watch”, due to the characteristics of the variant, which may suggest an increased risk to public health. The number of cases of this sub-lineage has also been increasing in France in recent weeks, according to the epidemiological bulletin from Public Health France.
However, there is no indication that it could cause more serious forms of the disease. On the other hand, the risk is that this increase in cases, combined with an increase in the number of patients with other acute respiratory infections, will weigh on the health system.
“In this context and in view of family gatherings for the end-of-year holidays, it is essential that people at risk protect themselves by resorting to vaccination against seasonal flu and Covid-19 and that everyone continues to adopt barrier gestures”, advocates Public Health France.
The Minister of Health Aurélien Rousseau tweeted last Friday on Otherwise, it is the hospital and the most vulnerable who will pay a high price for all this.”