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HEALTH

Stomach flu virus makes seasonal return to France

The annual stomach bug season has arrived in France although certain parts of the country have been more affected than others.

Stomach flu virus makes seasonal return to France
Image: Sentinelles

Stomach flu or “gastro” as they call it in French has arrived in France.

Health authorities have noticed a huge jump in the number of people seeking medical attention for acute diarrhoea last week.

The increase is fairly common for this time of autumn but French health authority Santé Publique France says the regions of Hauts-de-France in the north, Grand-Est in the East and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur have seen the biggest number of new cases of “gastro”.

“We have to wait for the data to be confirmed from one week to another, but the number of new cases is rising slowly,” Marion Debin, a health specialist told BFM TV.

“This is a normal rate for the season,” she said.

Gastroenteritis or stomach flu, is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by a bacterial or viral infection that typically results in vomiting and diarrhea.
 
Health officials say the next best way to prevent yourself from 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.

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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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