Swine flu: Belgium changes tack

15th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Belgian authorities have decided to modify their approach to the way that they tackle the swine flu crisis.

The change in tack comes as the number of flu cases doubled in just one week.

In future only people who are seriously ill will receive antivirals.

The drugs will be available to children under five, pregnant women and the chronically ill including diabetes and heart patients.

In future the public health department will no longer carry out systematic tests on people who fall ill to establish whether they are suffering from swine flu or not.

The spread of the flu will be charted by GPs.

Supplies of antivirals and face masks will be distributed to municipalities across Belgium in the course of the week. The drugs and equipment will later be passed on to GPs.

Influenza commissioner Marc Van Ranst told the VRT: "Antivirals are not sweets. We want to restrict their use to people who can use them effectively. Until now they were widely prescribed in order to stop the spread of the virus.

Most people will get better without antivirals."

On Monday a further 15 new cases of swine flu were registered. Half the cases are linked to a language course in Liège (Wallonia).

Employers and unions to tackle flu together
Belgian employers’ organisations and trade unions have decided to join forces to combat swine flu. They are setting up a joint working party and a special flu campaign will be staged.

Forecasts suggest that up to 30% of the workforce can be affected by the flu.

Piet Vanthemsche of the Farmers Union says that simple measures can help prevent the spread of the disease.

"We’re going to ensure that people get accurate information very quickly. We'll tell them about individual steps they can take in businesses.

In a second phase we'll look to see if individual flu plans can be drawn up for some businesses.

People can help by doing very simple things: regularly washing their hands, sneezing and coughing into a handkerchief. These are often more effective than wearing a face mask."


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