‘Gastro’ epidemic hits France as sickness and diarrhoea strikes most of country

The "gastro" season has well and truly taken hold across most of France at the start of the New Year, but a few parts of the country seem to be free from stomach flu virus.

'Gastro' epidemic hits France as sickness and diarrhoea strikes most of country
Photo: AFP/Sentinelles

The number of people struck down with gastroenteritis in France continues to rise with most parts of the country affected by the spread of the stomach flu virus, known in French just as “gastro”.

Since the New Year the number of patients consulting a doctor for acute diarrhoea or sickness continues to rise.

The regions most affected by the virus are Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the south west, Grand Est in the north east and the Pays de la Loire in the west. But on the whole no region has really been spared.

However as the map below there are certain lucky small parts of the country that appear to be free from the virus including southern Corsica, an area in the east around Belfort and Montbelliard bordering Switzerland as well as a small area in the centre of the country around Bourges and the town of Nevers.

Normandy appears to be the region least affected as whole.

The organisation Sentinelles, which keeps tabs on outbreaks of viruses in France says the number of cases of “gastro” is high compared to recent years, but normal for the winter season.


In total some 215,000 French people were struck down with the highly contagious virus between December 30th and January 5th, a small proportion of whom had to receive hospital treatment.

And unlike flu it's not just older people who are susceptible to being struck down by the virus.

Patients treated range from age two to 100, with the average age being 36 years old.

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.


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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.