Emerging and re-emerging viruses

Research, surveillance and preparedness for the (re-)emergence of new and exotic viruses

We focus on research and laboratory surveillance of viruses which could (re-)emerge in Belgium, and therefore put public health at risk. Our team hosts the National Reference Centre for Rabies in humans and the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies in animals. Thanks to continuous vigilance and surveillance, our rabies Centre and Laboratory guarantee the rabies-free status of Belgium.

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We focus on preparedness and response in case of emergence of new viruses and outbreaks in the population. Diagnostic assays of potentially emerging viruses, such as tick-borne encephalitis virus or West Nile virus, are continuously evaluated and can rapidly be deployed in case of an outbreak.

Several emerging viruses are zoonotic, meaning that they have an animal origin. They can spread in the population through the movements of wild or domestic animals, or though vectors such as insects or ticks. They can also emerge and spread as a consequence of climate change. For this reason, our research also focuses on the laboratory surveillance of zoonotic viruses in animal hosts or vectors. Detecting the presence of these viruses in nature can be an early warning for public health. This “One Health” approach can indeed enable the various health authorities to prepare and allows us to give appropriate recommendations in order to limit the risk of outbreaks in the population.

We also study the risk factors which can favour the infection of human beings by animal viruses, and give advice on effective preventive measures.

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