An outbreak of stomach flu cases in France is really putting a damper on the first month of the new year.
The above map shows current diarrhoea incident rates around the country in a sea of red, with a clear increase from numbers released earlier this week (see map below).
France has seen a rise in acute diarrhoea cases and the upward trend is supposed to continue, says the Sentinelles de l'Inserm, an online network of general practitioners and researchers (see graph below).
The figures from the group, released on Wednesday, showed that the PACA region in the south, as well as Nord-Pas-de-Calais in the north, were the hardest hit.
But it is Brittany that has seen the biggest spike, with 51 emergency admissions, the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance said on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, the Paris region of Ile-de-France, Burgundy, and parts of the south are all expected to be hit hard in the coming days, the institute added.
GPs reported 247 cases of stomach flu per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide, well above the epidemic threshold of 193 out of 100,000. This marks the third consecutive week above the threshold.
Last week's flu map (right) was much less severe that this week's (left). Photo: Sentinelles de l'Inserm
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 diarrhea.
Last year, the stomach flu epidemic was particularly intense and lasted nine weeks.
Every year, about 2.5 million people are infected with the seasonal flu in France. Children under 15 make up between a quarter and a half of all cases. Those aged over 65 account for between 5 percent and 11 percent, but nearly all of the fatalities.
Non-vaccinated individuals are encouraged to get flu shots which will hopefully be more effective than last year’s vaccine. Only one in four people was protected from the 2014-2015 strain because the epidemic was largely due to a mutated virus not included in the vaccine cocktail, according to the World Health Organisation.
Health officials say the next 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.