Cause

In most cases influenza is a benign illness but for elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases, the complications of flu can be dangerous. Vaccination remains the best way of preventing the complications of flu and hospitalisation.

How does the influenza virus spread?

The highly contagious nature of the influenza virus facilitates its propagation.

Present in respiratory secretions, it: 

  • spreads through the respiratory tract with sneezing or fits of coughing 
  • spreads by inhalation  
  • infects the respiratory tract mucosa (nose and throat)
  • persists for a long time on the hands
  • spreads by simple contact with an infected person or thing
  • confined and crowded places favour the spread of the virus (public transport).

Observing hygiene is therefore the first measure to be taken to limit the spread of the influenza virus.

Different influenza viruses can be the cause of seasonal influenza.

The influenza A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) viruses as well as the influenza B virus are the cause of seasonal influenza in Belgium and circulate every year to different extents.

Sciensano coordinates a network of general practitioners and hospitals to ensure the permanent surveillance of influenza activity, of the intensity and severity of epidemics and the impact on the population. Sciensano is also the National Reference Centre (NRC) for influenza virus. The Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) of Sciensano, together with the European OMCL network, is responsible for the quality control of the influenza vaccine prior to marketing.

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