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    High risk of flu epidemic hitting Brussels in February

    Every winter in Belgium there is a flu epidemic that affects about 3% to 10% of the population and lasts for eight weeks on average. Credit: Belga.

    There is a high chance of a flu epidemic being declared in Belgium, with most recent data from Belgian national public health institute, Sciensano, showing that the epidemic threshold was crossed last week.

    During the week of 20 to 26 January, about 245 people per 100,000 residents, with symptoms ranging from fever, coughing, a runny nose, a sore throat, a headache, muscle aches to fatigue, made visits to the GP for a flu check. This number is higher than the epidemic threshold of 153 consultations per 100,000 inhabitants.

    In addition, 72% of airway samples taken in the same week that were collected by the general practitioner’s network and reviewed by the National Influenza Reference Center, tested positive for the flu virus, the national public health institute explains in a press release.

    While the threshold was exceeded during the week of 20 to 26 January, however, Sciensano will only officially declare a flu epidemic if the threshold is exceeded for two weeks in a row and if at least 20% of the respiratory samples after analysis by Sciensano test positive for a flu virus.

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    “The number of consultations is expected to increase in the coming weeks, but it is difficult to predict how intense this epidemic will be,” Sciensano explained.

    Every winter there is a flu epidemic in Belgium that affects about 3% to 10% of the population and lasts for eight weeks on average.

    As the vaccination period typically runs from mid-October to mid-December, the availability of the flu vaccine is no longer guaranteed. However, people with an increased risk – such as those over 65 years of age, pregnant women or people with chronic illness- who want to be vaccinated should consult their doctor.

    Flu is a virus, meaning that antibiotics are of no use. If you think you are showing symptoms of the flu virus, consult your doctor.

    Evie McCullough
    The Brussels Times