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HEALTH

Flu warnings issued for parts of France as ‘gastro’ virus strikes south west

France's public health authority has issued warnings over the spread of the flu virus, saying that four of the country's 13 regions are in 'pre-epidemic' phase. The south west of the country has also been hit by the stomach flu virus, known as "gastro".

Flu warnings issued for parts of France as 'gastro' virus strikes south west
Photo: AFP

The four regions named – Occitanie in the south west, Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur in the south east, Pays-de- la-Loire in the west and the greater Paris Île-de-France region – have all seen high levels of flu-related hospital admissions in the past week.

Santé publique France in its weekly bulletin recorded 1,787 flu-related hospital visits in the week before Christmas, of which 160 resulted in the patient being admitted – a sharp rise from previous weeks.

“An increase in all the indicators, whether it be hospital and intensive care admissions or the number of consultations”, has been observed in these regions, Vincent Henouf, deputy director of the influenza reference centre at the Pasteur Institute, told BFMTV.  

In 2018 flu caused 9,500 deaths in France.

The health agency says it is still not too late to get vaccinated against flu if you haven't already had the jab, which can be obtained from your doctor or from participating pharmacies.

Flu wasn't the only virus causing problems over the festive period. 

The seasonal stomach flu virus, known as “gastro” in France was also affecting certain regions with the south west particularly badly hit as the map below shows.

The north east of France as well as the Pays-de-la-Loire in the centre and the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur have also seen the spread of a virus that causes acute sickness and diarrhoea. 

To avoid falling victim to the virus members of the public are advised to wash their hands regularly, especially after visiting the toilet.

The illness normally lasts for between 24 and 72 hours. Anyone struck down by acute sickness and diarrhoea is advised to stay well hydrated.

 

READ ALSO What you need to know about getting a flu vaccine in France

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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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