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Belgium declares influenza epidemic following case surge

Europe's influenza season kicked off early this year- Hospital admissions due to the illness have been rising since October - Filippo Monteforte-AFP via Getty images

An official influenza epidemic has been proclaimed in Belgium, where cases have skyrocketed to levels comparable to those seen with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the country’s national public health institute, Sciensano, announced that enough evidence exists to classify the current situation as an influenza epidemic.

As the institute put it, “the flu has already been back for some time in our country, but now all the criteria are met to be able to talk about a flu epidemic.” They explained that a “clear increase” in influenza cases had been observed among general practitioners, laboratory tests, and hospitalisations.

The institute also noted that other respiratory viruses, such as the bronchiolitis virus, coronavirus, and others, can produce similar symptoms to those of influenza.

Steven Van Gucht, a virologist at Sciensano, says, “we now see about as many flu patients in our hospitals as corona patients.” However, “the number of hospitalised flu patients is likely to take the lead.”

Since the number of instances is so high, the healthcare industry is already under stress, but experts fear things could worsen. According to Van Gucht, “it is always possible to get a flu shot,” and the peak will occur in three to four weeks.

This year, the flu season in Europe began earlier than usual, with an uptick in hospitalisations attributable to the virus beginning in October.

Many nations, like Germany and Slovakia, have already proclaimed an outbreak to be an emergency.

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