France expects two million flu cases

2nd December 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 2 (AFP) - Two million cases of flu are expected in France by week's end, health officials said Tuesday, as hospitals struggled to cope with a rush of emergency admissions.

PARIS, Dec 2 (AFP) - Two million cases of flu are expected in France by week's end, health officials said Tuesday, as hospitals struggled to cope with a rush of emergency admissions.

Four months after the unprecedented heatwave that killed more than 15,000 old people, questions were again being raised over the capacity of France's health system to cope with crises - though doctors said there was no cause for alarm.

"According to our mathematical forecasts the climax of the outbreak should come on December 7 by which time some two million people will have consulted their doctor with flu symptoms," said Antoine Flahaut, a health ministry official responsible for monitoring viral diseases.

Over the weekend, emergency departments in the Paris area were overloaded as worried parents brought in hundreds of children suffering from flu, bronchiolitis or gastroenteritis. In some cases patients had to wait up to seven hours.

Two children of less than a year in age died over the weekend as a result of bronchiolitis - an inflammation of the lungs that in some cases is linked to flu - but health officials insisted they died in intensive care and had not been made to wait unduly for treatment.

General Director for Health, William Dab, said there was no similarity between the current difficulties and the summer's heatwave. "At that time, we were facing a silent epidemic, but this is a typical one," he said.

Britain has also seen a large number of flu cases - with as many as seven children believed to have died from the illness - but chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said the level of deaths was "no different from previous years."

Outbreaks of flu occur annually, but this year they have come earlier than usual and the virus is believed to be a new strain - named Fujian - which is largely resistant to vaccinations given in the past.

This has given rise to fears that - with the globalisation of transport and communications - a worldwide pandemic of flu is waiting to happen that could prove as deadly as the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919 which killed more people than World War I.
"The number of cases of flu this year remains well below the level of an epidemic," said Britain's Times newspaper in an editorial. "Those who catch it should go to bed. The rest of us should wake up."

It urged governments to follow the advice of two American experts who recently said that anti-viral drugs should be stockpiled in much greater quantities than at present, and that money needed to be pumped into developing better vaccines.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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