OST - Outbreak Support Team

Last updated on 17-2-2023 by Marinka Vangenck

Sciensano's project investigator(s):


In short

Sick, weakened or vulnerable people are more susceptible to infections. Therefore, in places where these people temporarily stay together, such as in hospitals and care institutions, outbreaks of infectious diseases or contamination can occur, in which several people become infected with the same pathogen. These can be viruses, such as the flu virus or coronavirus, but also bacteria or fungi. In the case of bacterial infections, these are often resistant bacteria that are less sensitive to antibiotics. Such outbreaks present a particular challenge to healthcare staff.

At the request of the regional health authorities, Sciensano’s Outbreak Support Team assists healthcare institutions in tackling and preventing outbreaks. We also study the outbreaks to learn from them and acquire new knowledge.

Project summary

On 21 November 2013, the protocol agreement relating to the national strategic plan to combat Multidrug Resistant Organisms (MDRO) was published in the Official Gazette. The ‘Outbreak Support Team’ (OST) concept was created in this context. The mission of an OST is to assist healthcare institutions (hospitals, nursing homes, other chronic care facilities) in the event of outbreaks with MDRO and, by extension, with viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 or fungi.

As soon as there is a request for help from a care institution, the relevant services of the regional health authorities put together an OST. The contact details of the various regional services that provide support in the event of an outbreak with MDRO are listed below.

In the first instance, an OST consists of experts from the federated entities themselves and responsible persons from the healthcare institution concerned. In addition, the OST can be expanded to include experts from Sciensano, from the National Reference Centres (NRC) and/or external experts.

In its advice, the OST relies as much as possible on available recommendations and scientific evidence, supplemented with scientifically validated experience from the past. The OST also goes to the site. In addition, Sciensano’s experts have the specific task of analysing information on antibiotic use, hand hygiene and other indicators, as well as answering specific medical questions based on literature research. In this way, each member of the OST puts his/her specific expertise at the service of the hospital hygiene team or the coordinating physician of the healthcare institution. The latter remain ultimately responsible for controlling and preventing outbreaks.

Sciensano is also involved in the collection of data on outbreaks in healthcare institutions and reporting to the national and European level. An example of this is participation in a protocol from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control  (ECDC) regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in healthcare facilities.

The contact details of the various regional services:

Flanders – Agentschap Zorg en Gezondheid (Agency for Care and Health — AZG)

Wallonia and the German-speaking Community – Agency for Quality of Life (Agence pour une Vie de Qualité — AVIQ)

Brussels-Capital Region – Health Inspectorate (Gezondheidsinspectie GGC/Inspection d’hygiène CCC)


Consult the PDF icon overview of outbreaks with multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO) where epidemic support has been provided in Belgium between December 2014 — December 2020.

Associated Health Topics

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