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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 15:26 GMT
France battles with flu epidemic
General Director for Health William Dab speaks to the press
French official William Dab says it is nothing like the summer crisis
Hospitals around Paris have struggled to cope with a double outbreak of flu and gastroenteritis over the weekend.

Reuters news agency says more than 500,000 people in France have contracted the bugs in recent weeks, putting extra pressure on hospitals.

Officials said the epidemic had nothing in common with the summer, when nearly 15,000 people died from extreme heat.

Critics say that emergency rooms are still crowded and resources scarce, while experts say things will worsen.

Many children

As hospital staff rushed to attend to the many children brought in with symptoms of flu, waiting time for emergency patients increased to seven hours in some Paris hospitals.

Some hospitals launched a "White Plan", similar to the one during the summer heatwave, and recalled off-duty staff.

The French Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei acknowledged some services in the Paris area had been inundated.

But France's General Director for Health, William Dab, told reporters that the phenomenon was nothing like the summer's heatwave.

"At that time, we were facing a silent epidemic, but this is a typical one," he said.

Other officials criticised the parents for not seeking help from their local doctor and needlessly overburdening the hospitals.


Widely blamed for the large number of deaths in the heatwave crisis, the French government announced extra funds for the health system in September.

They included 10,000 new health jobs and 15,000 extra hospital beds.

The plan will cost nearly 490m euros ($570m) over the next five years, including 150m euros to make emergency services a "fundamental hospital activity".


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