Common communicable diseases in the general population in France during the COVID-19 pandemic

PLoS One. 2021 Oct 11;16(10):e0258391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258391. eCollection 2021.


In France, social distancing measures have been adopted to contain the spread of COVID-19, culminating in national Lockdowns. The use of hand washing, hydro-alcoholic rubs and mask-wearing also increased over time. As these measures are likely to impact the transmission of many communicable diseases, we studied the changes in common infectious diseases incidence in France during the first year of COVID-19 circulation. We examined the weekly incidence of acute gastroenteritis, chickenpox, acute respiratory infections and bronchiolitis reported in general practitioner networks since January 2016. We obtained search engine query volume for French terms related to these diseases and sales data for relevant drugs over the same period. A periodic regression model was fit to disease incidence, drug sales and search query volume before the COVID-19 period and extrapolated afterwards. We compared the expected values with observations made in 2020. During the first lockdown period, incidence dropped by 67% for gastroenteritis, by 79% for bronchiolitis, by 49% for acute respiratory infection and 90% for chickenpox compared to the past years. Reductions with respect to the expected incidence reflected the strength of implemented measures. Incidence in children was impacted the most. Reduction in primary care consultations dropped during a short period at the beginning of the first lockdown period but remained more than 95% of the expected value afterwards. In primary care, the large decrease in reported gastroenteritis, chickenpox or bronchiolitis observed during the period where many barrier measures were implemented imply that the circulation of common viruses was reduced and informs on the overall effect of these measures.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchiolitis / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Chickenpox / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / virology
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Seasons
  • Young Adult

Grant support

IQVIA provided support in the form of salaries for authors ML and IB, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.