France remains in epidemic state for flu as death toll rises to 72

France remains officially in epidemic for seasonal flu as thousands fall sick. In total 72 people have died since the outbreak began.

France remains in epidemic state for flu as death toll rises to 72
Photo: AFP/ Santé Publique France

Coronavirus might be hogging the headlines again, but in France normal seasonal flu is proving far more deadly.

France has been in a state of influenza epidemic since the start of February. Latest figures from Santé publique France show that every region of the country is in epidemic level of the illness, with 175 people per 100,000 of the population falling sick.

But with both the number of new cases and the number of hospitalisations falling, public health experts believe the flu has now peaked. All regions of France remain at epidemic level, apart from the greater Paris Île-de-France area which is now post-epidemic.

READ ALSO Coronavirus in France – what you need to know

Map: Santé Publique France

Since the start of the outbreak in November, 724 people have been admitted to intensive care with flu and 72 of them have died.

These include 10 children under 15 years of age, 30 cases aged 15-64 and 32 cases aged 65 years and older.
The average age of these serious cases is 52 years and 74 percent of them had risk factors for complications (over 65 years of age, chronic illnesses, etc). Among the latter, three-quarters were not vaccinated against influenza (among those whose vaccination status was known).
Every year seasonal flu affects between two and six million people in France and last year 9,500 people died from it.
Health officials advise people to practice normal good hygiene – washing hands regularly, using disposable tissues and throwing them away if you have a cough and coughing into your elbow. Those who are sick are advised to wear a disposable face mask to help avoid spreading the illness.
You can also still take the flu vaccine if you have not already – it is available in France from doctors and some pharmacies.

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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.