Noting a “continued increase” in indicators “despite a shift in connection with the Toussaint school holidays”, Public Health France pointed to “numbers of visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations for bronchiolitis very high and at higher levels to those observed at epidemic peaks for more than 10 years”.

The epidemic appears generally more marked in the regions of the northern half of France, adds the public health agency in its weekly report.

Common and highly contagious, bronchiolitis causes babies to cough and have labored, rapid, wheezing breathing.

If it is distressing for young parents, it is most of the time benign. In some cases, it may require a visit to the emergency room, or even hospitalization.

A total of 6,891 children under the age of two went to the emergency room for bronchiolitis in mainland France in the week from October 31 to November 6, representing a weekly increase of 7% – much less, however, than the increase of the previous week (47 %). Some 2,337 children were eventually hospitalized.

“Hospitalizations for bronchiolitis represent 50% of hospitalizations following a visit to the emergency room in children under two years old. In comparison, this percentage was around 40% during the peaks of previous seasons”, noted Public Health France.

This epidemic has hit pediatric emergency services plunged into a crisis linked to unsatisfactory working conditions and a lack of staff.

Faced with this crisis and under pressure from caregivers, the Minister of Health François Braun announced last week new measures to help pediatric services, for a total amount of around 400 million euros.

He then recognized a “worrying situation” in hospitals, linked to an epidemic of “worrying” bronchiolitis.