COVID-19: the winter viruses are back

Bronchiolitis, but also nasopharyngitis – the good old cold -, tonsillitis, gastroenteritis and probably soon the flu … The seasonal viruses that COVID-19 had forgotten are back with the cold season.

• Read also: Bronchiolitis: after COVID, the fear of a rebound

Everyone has seen it these days in their daily life, at work or at school: coughs, sore throats, runny nose or fever are increasing, without necessarily being caused by COVID.

In mainland France, “the incidence rate of cases of acute respiratory infection (fever and respiratory symptoms, editor’s note) seen in general medicine consultation” is “increasing since early September”, thus note the health authorities.

This “can be explained by the circulation of other respiratory viruses than SARS-CoV-2” responsible for COVID, they underline in the latest surveillance bulletin from the Sentinels physician network.

This return of seasonal viruses is logical at the start of autumn. But this occurs in a particular context linked to COVID: last winter, due to confinements and strict compliance with barrier measures, these viruses circulated less than usual.

Consequence: “It is quite possible that the immunity of the general population has decreased,” explains epidemiologist Sibylle Bernard-Stoecklin in a video recently posted by the French public health agency.

“Because of this decline in collective immunity to these viruses”, it may be that “the epidemics of this year are of greater intensity”, she continues, citing for example bronchiolitis or flu.

To avoid it, health professionals ask not to forget the barrier gestures, despite the decline of the COVID epidemic.

“There is a carelessness, a lot of people have put that aside,” laments Dr. Fabienne Kochert, president of the French Association for Ambulatory Pediatrics (Afpa), to AFP.

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“You have to keep basic barrier measures in mind, such as rigorous hand hygiene. It’s typical with gastro: it’s a disease of dirty hands, ”she adds.

“These everyday actions, the fact of washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask – particularly when you are in a confined space -, regularly ventilating your home or staying at home when you are sick, are very important. effective in combating the circulation of these viruses, ”also notes Sibylle Bernard-Stoecklin.

Because beyond the benign infections, looms a potentially more formidable adversary: ​​the flu, the season of which generally begins in November-December.

The health authorities therefore insist on the importance of vaccination for people at risk (elderly or fragile), who are also the most exposed to severe forms of COVID.