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HEALTH

Flu epidemic hits every region in France

France may be regularly called the ‘sick man of Europe’ by political opponents from abroad, but on this occasion the accusation may be true, at least in the most literal sense.

Flu epidemic hits every region in France
Photo: AFP

The flu virus has reached every corner of metropolitan France and Corsica, with more than 8,500 visits to the ER recorded in just the last week.

A map released by the country’s public health system reveals how on Wednesday January 30 the whole of metropolitan France and the island of Corsica have been classified at “epidemic” level for the flu virus.

Source: France Santé Publique

For the past week, Normandy was the only region in the country to not have reached epidemic levels. 

Even the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Mayotte and Martinique have been marked as being at the pre-epidemic stages, meaning the only French departments marked as green and free from the flu virus are French Guayana and Réunion.

For flu levels to be classified as epidemic, there have to be 350 cases for every 100,000 people. 

Over the last week, 8,565 people with flu-like symptoms have visited French hospital emergency rooms, of which 1,054 were hospitalized.

Most of these admissions concerned children under the age of 5 (32 percent) and 5 to 14 year olds (23 percent).

Flu-like symptoms also accounted for 18 percent of emergency doctors' consultations in the past seven days.

Source: Sentinelles

The usual symptoms of la grippe as it’s called in French are a feverishness and chills, a cough, sore throat, headache, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and more often in children vomiting and diarrhea.

However the flu can have life-threatening complications among the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.

Since the start of November of 2018, 422 serious cases of influenza have been reported, including 92 in the past week week. Thirty-three of these resulted in death.

 

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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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