Risks and Severity

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.

Risks only for at-risk people

For people without risk factors, there are no major risks attached to influenza in Belgium.

Certain people who are at risk, mainly elderly people suffering from chronic illnesses (asthma, diabetes, heart disease) can, however, experience complications:

  • bronchitis
  • ear infections
  • sinus infections
  • encephalitis (brain infection)
  • septicaemia (blood infection)
  • dehydration.

DID YOU KNOW? The complications of influenza can be due to bacteria and, in this case only, the infections are treated with antibiotics. A reasoned and responsible use of antibiotics preserves their usefulness for times in which they are really needed, such as for bacterial infections.


The mortality rate for influenza is more often than not due to the complications and concerns the elderly more than others: about 97% of deaths caused by influenza are of people aged 65 and over and 86% of deaths caused by influenza are of people suffering from chronic illnesses.

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.

Other sources of information

There are currently no external links associated to this health topic

In the media

QR code

QR code for this page URL