French hospitals struggle with worst bronchiolitis epidemic in 10 years


French hospitals are facing a new epidemic as bronchiolitis infections soar to their highest level in a decade - leading public health authorities to issue a nationwide alert.

Caused by a virus, bronchiolitis is a common lung infection in babies and young children that leads to inflammation and congestion in the small airways, or bronchioles, of the lung.

It usually begins with a cold and is often characterised by coughing and rapid wheezing. Although most cases are mild, bronchiolitis can develop into a more severe form that requires hospitalisation.

Early arrival

The illness has arrived in France particularly early this year, accounting for half of all emergency hospital admissions in children aged under two, and putting paediatric services under pressure.

Santé Publique France, which is run by the Health Ministry, said infection rates during the week of 31 October to 6 November have not been this high for the past 10 years.

Ninety-two percent of cases were in infants aged under a year old, with authorities warning the epidemic is not expected to end soon.

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