As autumn is approaching, other respiratory viruses such as the flu will also start returning, warned the health authorities during a press conference on Friday.
The flu season usually takes place between January and March, and this time it may coincide with a resurgence of the coronavirus, said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.
"The flu vaccine will be more important than ever, this winter," said Van Gucht, adding that both the flu virus and the coronavirus are most dangerous for the weaker people in our society. However, the flu vaccine only helps against the flu, and not against other infections.
Both the flu virus and the coronavirus can cause severe infections, "especially in patients who are weakened, either by old age or by a chronic underlying disorder," Van Gucht said, adding that this means that the risk groups are largely the same.
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"The symptoms of both diseases are also very similar and can only be distinguished by a test," he added. Additionally, it is not yet clear what it would mean if someone were to catch both viruses at the same time, or shortly after each other.
"We do expect that the measures we are now taking to combat Covid-19 will also have an inhibiting effect on the flu epidemic," Van Gucht said. However, the effect is still difficult to estimate, according to him.
"During a flu epidemic, many people always end up in hospital and it can get very busy," Van Gucht said, adding that if a lot of coronavirus patients will be in hospital at the same time, it can become "very difficult."
With that in mind, it is important that as many at-risk people as possible get vaccinated against the flu, in order to avoid overburdening the healthcare system, according to him.
Additionally, healthcare personnel should also be vaccinated so as not to pass the flu virus to their patients, and so they will not fall ill while the hospitals will be busy.
In Belgium, 2.9 million flu vaccines will be available this year, reports Van Gucht. "That is half a million more than last year."
The Brussels Times