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HEALTH

Stomach flu epidemic ‘set to worsen’ in France

Doctors and researchers have predicted that the current "gastro" epidemic in France will soar as the end of the month approaches.

Stomach flu epidemic 'set to worsen' in France
Areas in red are seeing 300 gastro cases per 100,000 residents. Photo: Sentinelles de l'Inserm
If you're feeling a bit under the weather in France, you're far from alone. 
 
The Sentinelles de l'Inserm, an online network of general practitioners and researchers, has announced that the gastroenteritis levels in France have been at “epidemic level” for two weeks. 
 
Gastroenteritis or stomach flu, which many French refer to as 'gastro,' is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by a bacterial or viral infection that typically results in vomiting and diarrhoea. 
 
The incidence rate of acute diarrhoea reported by French GPs has been at 219 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which is above the epidemic threshold of 194 cases per 100,000. 
 
The worst-hit areas are Languedoc-Roussillon (which had 389 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), Nord-Pas-de-Calais (with 380) and Champagne-Ardenne (with 363).
 
The average ago of the patients was 23, with 48 percent of them males. 
 
Researchers predicted that the level of activity of acute diarrhea should continue to rise for the rest of the month, according to the forecast model based on historical data (see graph below).
 
 
This means France could see rates doubling to around 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the next few days. 
 
The report added that the strain of the sickness wasn't too serious, with just 0.4 percent of all reported cases requiring treatment in hospital. 

Wash your hands!

Health officials say the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid contact with dirty hands. However, if you can’t avoid touching others, make sure to disinfect your hands quickly.

If you do get sick, the most important thing is to remain hydrated and avoid eating foods that are high in fibre.

HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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