“No one has the will to do things in their corner”

La Croix: Could Italy be helped today to fight the coronavirus epidemic?

Anne Sénéquier : Italy currently has the highest incidence rate in the world, that is to say that it is the country with the most new cases every day. Northern Italy is not under-hospitalized, especially in terms of respirators in the intensive care unit. Simply put, the number of people in need of this equipment today is abnormally high.

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Lending equipment from French hospitals today seems risky, while we expect on the national territory to move into stage 3 of active circulation of the virus. Transporting Italian patients to another country is also not realistic, as this transport is delicate and this would raise the question of an epidemic risk in the host country. On the other hand, one could imagine in the future building a health emergency center at European level, as exists for example for forest fires. It would centralize materials such as masks and skills.

How do you judge the global response?

A.S. : As early as January 9, China reported that it had identified a new virus to the World Health Organization (WHO). This made it possible to organize the response, in particular by identifying the first contact cases. China has agreed to have WHO staff come in to assess their response. No one has the will to do things in their corner. European health ministers, for example, meet regularly.

→ LIVE. Coronavirus: update on the Covid-19 epidemic in France and worldwide Wednesday, March 11

The experience of the SARS epidemic in 2003 has improved responses. An alert system has been set up at the Asia-Pacific level. It detects an average of two virus emergencies per week! In addition, the majority of states have signed international health regulations, put in place by WHO. It helps coordinate responses to epidemics.

Of course, you also have to take into account the human factor, that is to say with people’s fears. They can lead them not to follow preventive measures, particularly in terms of containment.

Do we have to prepare for more and more epidemics?

A.S. : Absolutely. There will be other epidemics of emerging diseases which did not exist before and which are transmitted to humans through the animal world. This has been the case with Ebola, HIV, SARS. This emergence can be explained in particular by the imbalances in our ecosystems and the increase in resistance to bacteria.

Let us cite two examples: the fact of pushing the border of tropical forests has increased the contacts between wildlife and people; the urban population is the majority on earth since 2007, but there are more and more urban people, on the outskirts of emerging cities, who live in their backyards with animals, such as poultry or pigs, and who are in contact daily with them.

→ TRIBUNE. Death in the time of the coronavirus

Faced with these risks, vaccines must attack bacteria made more resistant by the use of third-generation antibiotics. We can also mention the antibiotics used in intensive farming and the new highly resistant bacteria (BHRE) which transmit their resistance to other bacteria.

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