The number of visits to emergency rooms for suspected Covid-19 patients increased by an average of 31 percent in the week following the Bayonne Festival, one of Europe’s biggest festive gatherings that attracted 1.3 million people from July 26 to July 30. previous week.
Ninety-twenty patients of all ages were seen, according to Sande Public France, a government organization under the authority of the Ministry of Health. The numbers are “moderate”.. These are the only figures currently available, as daily monitoring of the epidemic ended on June 30 due to the “favorable epidemiological environment”.
The French medical emergency service SOS Medécins said 84 percent increase In medical consultations for suspected Covid-19 patients last week than the previous one. Although the increase was about “all age groups”, it particularly affected children under the age of two.
The increase in cases on mainland France has been “localised, particularly in the south-west and essentially driven by the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region”, the health ministry said, noting that “most cases are in the most popular holiday areas”.
A variant that is highly resistant to antibodies
This rise can be explained by the appearance of a new EG.5.1 variant, nicknamed by some scientists after “Eris” – the goddess of paradox in Greek mythology. World Health Organization (WHO) added this newcomer to the list “Variations of Interest” On Wednesday.
“A new Covid-19 wave appears with the emergence of a new variant that spreads more than its predecessors and establishes itself as the dominant variant,” says Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute for Global Health. Faculty of Medicine of Geneva. “This is what seems to be happening with the Omicron EG.5.1 sub-variant in recent weeks.”
According to GZoid, an international database that shares official data on Covid-19, almost 35 percent of viruses sequenced in France currently contain the EG.5.1 strain. Mircea Sofonea, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Montpellier in southern France, says the figure “should not be taken seriously” because “it only takes into account positive tests and we certainly haven’t tested all the infected”.
Since the beginning of the Omicron era, new variants – such as Eris – have been continuously identified in France as being more resistant to antibodies. These have “immune evasion properties,” says Zophonia. “This is nothing new. But the current surge in the epidemic shows that the virus is constantly evolving.”
‘No more extreme forms’
The situation is under control so far, with no pressure on hospitals, especially intensive care units. “In the countries where this variant was detected, there were no more severe forms of the disease than previous omicron variants,” says Flahalt. “In particular, health systems are not as saturated as they used to be.” Also, the According to WHO “Public health risk globally underestimated by EG.5”.
Nevertheless, the researchers warn that governments should be cautious and plan ahead to avoid finding themselves in a dangerous situation in a few months. “During autumn, traffic to health facilities can reach significant levels,” says Zofonia. “Influenza and bronchitis epidemics can occur during this period. That is the most worrying.”
Several measures have been proposed to prevent the spread of the virus. “As with seasonal flu, we can aim to eliminate the risk of renewed waves of Covid-19 by improving indoor air quality,” says Flahault, “first recommending wearing FFP2 masks in closed, poorly ventilated areas.”.
Flahault believes vaccination is key. Although the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines appears to wane over time, a booster shot in the fall “may reduce the risk of severe forms of the disease,” he says. A new vaccination campaign targeting Covid-19 and influenza is planned “from mid-October,” the health ministry said.
Translated from this article Original in French.