There is officially a flu epidemic in Belgium, according to information published in the weekly flu bulletin of the Sciensano public health institute and confirmed by virologist Marc Van Ranst.
Last week, the criteria for a flu epidemic were met for the first time this winter. More than one in five patients (22%) who visited a primary care physician for flu-like symptoms actually tested positive for influenza.
Sciensano uses a threshold of 20% to speak of a flu epidemic.
In addition, the weekly incidence of primary care consultations for confirmed influenza infection was 106 per 100,000 persons, which is higher than the epidemic threshold of 53/100,000.
Both conditions have thus been met for declaring an epidemic.
“The timing, in particular, is remarkable,” Van Ranst said. “After all, in 2020, the epidemic did not peak until mid-February.”
As to which variant of the influenza virus is currently making the rounds and the extent to which the vaccine protects against it, Van Ranst said it was far too early to make a statement.