Belgium's flu season peak not expected until early January

Belgium's flu season peak not expected until early January
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck / Belga

While the number of sniffling and coughing people going to the GP is on the rise, virologist Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano national health institute warned that the peak of the flu season has yet to come.

The number of flu infections and infections with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) as well as Covid-19 is rising, according to the most recent figures by Sciensano, which calls these three "very important" viruses.

"We mainly see RSV in children. In adults, especially flu and – particularly in the elderly – also RSV," Van Gucht told De Morgen. "On top of that, the number of infections with rhinoviruses and other cold viruses is also increasing. As a result, the number of GP consultations for flu-like complaints and respiratory infections is on the rise.”

Due to Covid-19, the flu virus has also had less of a chance to circulate, resulting in many people's specific antibodies against flu being on the back burner. "Like with Covid-19, there are different variants of the flu virus and the dominant variant also plays a role. In a number of other countries, it seems to be mainly about H3N2, which affects the elderly in a particularly strong way."

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Belgium, however, is also registering a lot of infections with the H1N1 strain. For the time being, Van Gucht said it is still too early to determine which variant will become the dominant one, or make estimations about the impact. "That will only be possible in the exponential phase of the epidemic, which I expect earlier in January. We do not expect the flu season to peak until after New Year."

Additionally, the feared and so-called 'twindemic,' in which the flu and Covid-19 wave would coincide, could still come to pass. "The number of Covid cases is expected to continue to rise for a while, before falling briefly as a result of the Christmas holidays and increasing again after New Year, when the flu epidemic is also at its worst."

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