The Belgian public health authorities have taken every possible precautionary measure to deal with the threat posed by the Corona virus outbreak, health minister Maggie De Block said, while there remains “a real chance” the infections could turn up in Belgium.
“France now has three cases, and we know of one suspected case in Berlin that still hasn’t been confirmed, so why would it not be possible in Belgium,” she said, speaking on VTM News (video).
The three cases in France were confirmed at the weekend, and France immediately introduced medical checks at all airports for passengers travelling from China. One flight from Beijing arrived at Zaventem yesterday, but passengers arriving were only observed.
“Our sanitary authorities are very vigilant, we have excellent laboratories and reference hospitals, protocols in suspicious cases, we have informed all doctors and hospitals of the steps to take – in other words we have taken all available precautionary measures,” she said.
One patient was admitted to the St-Pierre hospital in Brussels at the weekend – the reference hospital for anyone suspected of being infected by Corona – was cleared of the disease later following blood tests at the university hospital in Leuven – the country’s reference laboratory for testing.
De Block said it was unnecessary at present to introduce further precautions at airports. “We are closely following the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, and watching what other European countries are doing,” she said. Belgium has no direct flights arriving from Hubei, the province at the source of the outbreak.
Belgium is also careful monitoring international actions. “China is this time being very transparent in providing information,” she said, referring to the opposite case in 2003, when the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) led to more than 8,000 infections and 774 fatalities. China was then severely criticised for withholding information about the disease, which allowed it to spread widely. SARS was another version of the Corona virus, properly named Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV. The name “corona” comes from the latin for “crown”, and refers to the ring of spikes around its surface, giving a crown-like appearance,
According to the latest figures, which are changing all the time, the death toll has now reached 80, with 2,744 known cases of infection. However, the news that experts have discovered someone who is infected but showing no symptoms — a carrier, in other words — suggests that the evolution of the outbreak could turn out to be more rapid than previously estimated.
De Block also repeated the advice given to the public: be careful of fever, cough and flu-like symptoms, as well as respiratory problems – but only if you have recently been in China or have been in contact with someone who was.