The restrictions and barrier measures applied to fight the coronavirus epidemic have led to the virtual disappearance of influenza cases in France
Water has flowed under the bridges since the emergence of the Covid-19 in France and the comparisons between the virus and a “little flu”. The latest report from Public Health France published on Wednesday March 3 even shows a certain correlation between the appearance of the coronavirus and the near disappearance of influenza.
Other seasonal illnesses, such as bronchiolitis and gastroenteritis, have also seen a dramatic drop. But the case of influenza is special: the infection has almost disappeared from radar. Only 24 people positive for influenza have been identified since the beginning of October for no serious cases. “Unheard of”, testifies to HuffPost Thierry Blanchon from the Sentinelles network.
One of the first explanations for this fall is the trivialization of barrier measures and the various restrictions linked to Covid-19. According to the CoviPrev survey provided by Public Health France, barrier gestures are now a habit. 83% of French people say they wear a mask in public, 77% avoid greeting each other directly, 69% avoid festive gatherings and 64% wash their hands regularly.
France was also confined between October and December 2020, the period when the influenza virus begins to circulate.
Measures which also play on epidemics of chickenpox, bronchiolitis and gastroenteritis. These diseases have not, however, declined as drastically as the flu. The slight increase in influenza vaccinations (13 million against 10 in 2020 according to Le Parisien) may partly explain the significant decline in the influenza virus.
But not only. Le Washington Post reports this Friday, March 5 that a “dominant” pathogen, like that of Covid-19, can supplant another by conferring a certain immunity against the latter. This factor combined with barrier gestures and greater vaccination could explain the dramatic drop in the number of influenza cases, as well as the reduction in international travel.