The flu has reached the point of an epidemic in France with the number of new cases having doubled in the last week, newspaper Le Parisien reported on Wednesda
The threshold for an epidemic is set at 177 infections per 100,000 inhabitants for two weeks in a row, but during the past week, there's been almost 500 new cases per 100,000 people.
In all over 300,000 new cases were registered and the numbers are continuing to rise.
Experts say the epidemic could go on for six weeks, and is expected to reach its peak around mid-February, said Isabelle Bonmarin from the French Institute of Health Watch (InVS), adding that vaccinations are the best way to avoid falling ill.
However, it takes two weeks for the inoculation to take effect and the effectiveness of the flu jab may not be optimal because the influenza strain that has been most frequently recorded this season is slightly different from the one used in the vaccination.
The highest levels of outbreaks have been recorded in the Limousin region in central France last week with 1688 registered cases per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by the northern Picardie region and the central Auvergne region with 761 and 632 cases, respectively.
Since last November, 223 severe cases have been recorded out of which 16 ended fatally.
The majority of those with a severe infection hadn't been vaccinated even though they were considered at risk, the journal Le Quotidien du Medecin reported.
To avoid getting the bug French health authorities are advising people follow basic hygiene rules like covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing and avoid close contact with those who are ill.
A map of France showing the number of recorded influenza cases. Photo: Le Parisien
by Simone Flückiger