The number of visits to the doctor for influenza symptoms since the Summer of 2020 is higher than in previous years, due to the novel Coronavirus, but there is no flu epidemic for the moment in Belgium, Sciensano notes in a press release.
These trends can also be seen in Europe and the rest of the world, the public health institute added.
For an outbreak of flu to be considered an epidemic, the number of weekly visits to a general practitioner must he higher than a certain epidemic threshold, while at least 20% of patients’ breath samples need to test positive for the flu virus.
This year, “despite the number of samples analysed, the number testing positive for flu is much lower than in previous winters,” Sciensano reported.
It is impossible to tell flu symptoms from those linked to the novel Coronavirus, so the public health institute can only base its assessment on the spread of flu on the number of positive lab tests and positivity rates among patients with flu symptoms.
Thus far, “very few positive laboratory results for flu have been registered in Belgium,” Sciensano said in its press release. Other monitoring networks, such as nursing homes and hospitals, “have also not reported any positive sample for the flu virus,” it added, concluding that “the flu epidemic is therefore not here, for now.”
The small number of flu infections is likely due to the hygiene and preventive measures taken against the novel Coronavirus. Moreover, more people took the flu vaccine in Autumn.
Laboratory test results for other respiratory infections are also down this winter.