Parneix Discusses France's Fight Against COVID-19, Monkeypox, and Influenza in France

Pierre Parneix, MD, speaks with Infection Control Today® on his work as the president of the French Society for Hospital Hygiene, his work with the Clean Hospitals, and his outlook on France’s fight against infectious disease in the near future.

Infectious diseases are a worldwide problem, and each country handles the situations differently, from how often to lockdown communities to how environmental hygiene personnel are cleaning the hospitals and other facilities. How they make their choices must come from specialized clinicians who can advise and guide the decisions made. Many of those clinicians are going to meet in Geneva, Switzerland on October 20, 2022, for the Clean Hospitals Day Conference.

There, “the attendees and presenters will tackle the challenge of increasing the “global visibility and recognition of the importance of health care environmental hygiene, provide stronger focus and guidance, and encourage the creation of global standards for environmental hygiene,” as noted on the Clean Hospital’s website.

One of the clinicians and advisers presenting is Pierre Parneix, MD, who is the president of the French Society for Hospital Hygiene. Parneix was also a member of the COVID-19 commission for French President Emmanuel Macron. He specializes in antimicrobial resistance surveillance and prevention in hospitals and communication and intervention support in the field of health care-associated infection prevention.

Recently, Parneix spoke with Infection Control Today® (ICT®) about his work as the president of the French Society for Hospital Hygiene, his work with the Clean Hospitals Initiative, and his outlook on France’s fight against COVID-19, influenza, and monkeypox in the near future.

Parneix told ICT® that he has been associated with the the Clean Hospitals Day project since the beginning. “At the beginning, we started to make a training module; it was quite ambitious. Then the COVID-19 crisis arrived, [and] it was difficult to still do things, and we had [fewer] people on that. At that time, we focused on the self-assessment framework and to build the content.

"And [in order] to have the first release [of the information], we have prepared to assess the content and then to release now, in some weeks, the first version to a wide range of hospitals. The idea is to design a tool like Didier Pittet[, MD, CBE] and the whole organization had made for hand hygiene [now for] the field of environmental hygiene, which is far broader. It's a bit complicated. We go from cleaning surfaces, disinfecting surfaces, treating our water, managing waste, and cleaning medical devices, and reprocessing medical devices. [It] is far much wider as a field. But it's important to have a tool allowing people to position them on a scale, but we have discussed a lot of how to score each item and things like that, but we need to make some decisions. The idea is that people using these tools could evaluate where they are good in the field, and where they have progressed and [have] room for improvement. It is the main idea and to compare them with other quite similar hospitals, in their country or in other countries. We have worked a lot on that. It's the main focus for [now]. After that, maybe we should resume work on guidelines, but it's huge work. We are a small organization.”

When ICT® asked Parneix if he was concerned about the upcoming autumn and the illnesses, such as COVID-19, influenza, and monkeypox, that France faces, he replied, “It's not my habit to be worried toward bad things; things are always manageable. We've seen that with the COVID-19 crisis.

"Obviously, at this time, the COVID-19 is still rising up, we have a new wave, but we've not a huge impact of hospitalization, patient deaths. And the second was to shutter has not been done at wide extent. If there is an important additional impact, we'll see some additional disease and some problem in hospitals. And again, people will get access to vaccination and will improve. It's always reaction[ary]. It's very difficult to make prevention at very high level. For the [influenza] vaccination, it has increased a little bit during the pandemic with nearly close to 60% of at-risk patients, but it's [still] quite low. And in hospitals, health care professionals are less than 30% vaccinated. We still will have problem[s]. But we'll manage them. But in a reaction[ary] way. It's quite difficult to put in place a very high level of prevention all the time. And even infection control, the standard precautions are not high enough, in the daily practices, [in] reality; otherwise, we will not have so much scarcity.

Concerning COVID-19 cases in France, Parneix told ICT®, “I'm not worried about that [since] people are somewhat aware. People will react and know how to react if there's a problem. But we're still not at the level of sensibilization around prevention that people will anticipate, make all the jab [vaccinations] for flu or for COVID-19 and be on time for that. That will be always part of reaction. So [I am] at the time not worried. And I think we are able to react quite quickly in front of the problem.”

Parneix then discussed monkeypox: “It's a little bit different. It has been well managed [with] not a huge number of cases. [At this] time, in my region it is decreasing. We have nearly no infection transmission of the monkeypox. It has been well managed the main people and the men [patients] concerned by that have been well targeted in an open way. At this time, it has been well managed, and there are very few women and children concerned in France by the virus. For the time, that's been quite good in the management of this new outbreak.”

As a rule, the future is uncertain, however. “But we'll see what the future is. Maybe these viruses that were coming from nowhere will be there for a long time and with other viruses, we have vaccinations, but it's an ongoing process. We will have new viruses and things like that. The importance is to make this sensibilization of people at a high level and their reaction correct. Prevention is better, but at least reaction in the correct way to be open to declare a disease and to react in a way we need to that.”

Overall, France is ready, according to Parneix. “But for that I'm not that anxious. In France who made an incredible change in October 2020. We were not ready at all to vaccinate against COVID-19. We were waiting to observe the British and the US and see [how the vaccinations were] going. And one year after we were among the best countries [France] in the result of coverage of vaccination against COVID-19. It was especially due to our French president [who] was involved in [listening to those] in this field and evaluated that it was the only way to control this crisis. I'm confident, and we just need to continue to inform people to make prevention at the top of the agenda and to be ready to vaccinate, and vaster amount of people in the short time because it will be necessary. At the moment, nobody will be always ready to face the new virus or the same virus in a new way.”

These quotes are edited for length and clarity.