Bronchiolitis, a respiratory disease mainly affecting babies, is in sharp decline in France. According to the epidemiological report from Public Health France, released this Wednesday, January 18, the epidemic is officially over in Île-de-France. The respiratory syncytial virus, responsible for bronchiolitis, is falling sharply in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Brittany, Centre-Val de Loire, Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie and Guyana regions, which are moving into the post-epidemic phase. Across the country, 1,537 children under the age of 2 went to the emergency room for bronchiolitis from January 9 to 15. In comparison with the Christmas period, they were 4,480 the week of December 19 to 25, or 66% more numerous. For the rest of the population, the number of visits to the emergency room for cases of bronchiolitis decreased by 32% over the period from January 9 to 15, compared to the previous week. Following the same trend, hospitalizations fell by 29%.
These figures come as a relief to emergency services, which have been struggling to cope with the triple epidemic of influenza, Covid-19, and bronchiolitis. The peak of the latter, particularly early and severe this winter, occurred in the last week of November 2022, with a total of 2,878.6 visits to the emergency room, for 10,000 visits for all causes combined.
The end of the bronchiolitis epidemic in the coming weeks may be accompanied by an easing of tensions on paracetamol stocks, which have been subject to shortages this winter. This news should reassure parents who have been searching for the medication in pharmacies, as well as elderly people, who are also vulnerable to the respiratory syncytial virus.
The Moderna laboratory also announced, on Tuesday, January 17, the positive results of its phase 3 trial of its vaccine against the virus responsible for bronchiolitis in seniors. The vaccine, developed with messenger RNA, showed an effectiveness of nearly 84% against lower respiratory tract infections caused by the virus. The tests were carried out on 37,000 people aged over 60.
Moderna’s bronchiolitis vaccine could be available in the winter of 2023/2024, provided it obtains marketing authorization from the European Agency drugs (EMA). As for children, Moderna is working on phase 1 clinical trials.
The end of the bronchiolitis epidemic brings hope for a better future for families and elderly people alike. With the right measures in place, the virus can be successfully contained.