Sudden arrival of bronchiolitis: towards a “large-scale” epidemic

Dry cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing … The symptoms of bronchiolitis, far from being trivial in infants, must be the subject of special attention this year, marked by an early and more virulent epidemic. © Freepik


Ranked among the most contagious in children, bronchiolitis promises to be particularly virulent this winter. According to Public Health France, the epidemic is even ahead, since the virus is already actively circulating in certain regions such as the Île de France and the Grand-Est.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, for the moment, is one of the regions placed in the pre-epidemic phase. But the situation is likely to deteriorate quickly. The figures, in a week, have indeed panicked, with a 38% increase in emergency room visits and 38% in hospitalizations among infants under two years of age, nationwide.

The epidemic is two weeks early

From October 5, the scientific council sounded the alarm by inviting the greatest vigilance “For children born after March 2020” based on data collected in the southern hemisphere revealing “More intense traffic and shifted in time this winter”. A forecast confirmed by Public Health France in its bulletin of Wednesday, October 13, announcing a “Quick start and earlier compared to previous years”. Usually, the epidemic starts rather early November. It should therefore be both longer and more painful. “We fear an unusual and potentially large-scale epidemic”, worries Professor Yves Gillet, deputy head of pediatric emergencies at the HFME in Lyon.

Bronchiolitis: infants do not have enough immunity

In question ? The lack of immunity of infants, spared by a virus almost absent during the winter of 2020-2021. Due to barrier actions and containment measures, winter diseases have massively disappeared from pediatric radars during the Covid crisis. “It is possible that because of the closures of schools and nurseries, children may face an immune debt”, notes the Lyon pediatrician. “Children being less in contact with the usual viruses, they are potentially more at risk of catching them once together”.

While the bronchiolitis virus is generally mild, it can be dangerous in the most fragile, especially babies. While the country is swept by a powerful wind of relaxation, maintaining barrier gestures would however be the best way to protect them. “The bronchiolitis virus is transmitted in the same way as that of Covid-19”, confirms Professor Gillet. “The application of the same barrier gestures, effective against Covid-19, should be for this virus. We could thus advise to limit the movements of toddlers under 3 months. That is, do not take them to shopping malls or public transport, for example. Wash your hands regularly and wear a mask when you are sick. And finally, respect social distancing. These measures could indeed reduce the risk of bronchiolitis in toddlers, who are more at risk of developing serious forms ”.

Bronchiolitis: watch out for symptoms

This simple vigilance could allow many infants to slip through the cracks of the virus. For others, it is essential to pay attention to the symptoms of the disease, which often begins with a cold, combined with a cough. Runny nose, dry cough, difficulty breathing, wheezing, more or less moderate fever and difficulty eating are the main signs that can alert. And if the disease usually resolves on its own in 7-10 days, parents are still advised to make an appointment with their pediatrician if there is any concern and, of course, a worsening of the child’s condition. .

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Bronchiolitis is an acute infection of the respiratory tract. Viral in origin and very contagious, this affectation of the small bronchi affects children under two years of age, and especially infants. Classic winter disease, generally benign, it affects more than 30% of babies each year, ie 460,000 infants. According to the Institut de Veille Sanitaire, 60% of affected infants are less than 6 months old, and 30% less than 3 months old. Infants under two months of age are almost always required to be hospitalized.

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