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Belgian doctors braced for flu epidemic
Doctors and hospital staff in Belgium are preparing themselves for a surge in flu cases - as this winter's strain of the virus reaches epidemic levels in neighbouring countries including France and the UK.
While the number of reported Belgian cases remains below the epidemic threshold - which is 140 diagnoses per 100,000 inhabitants - the number of doctors' consultations for flu-like symptoms is increasing, according to the latest stats from the Institute for Public Health.
Symptoms include a fever above 39°C, coughing and aches. While the virus typically lasts less than a week among normally healthy people, it can be particularly dangerous for more vulnerable groups including children, the elderly and anyone with a weak immune system.
At-risk groups are encouraged to get vaccinated in the autumn, but Dr Pascal Pierre, a specialist at the Vivalia hospital group in Wallonia, told RTBF it was not too late: "If you've yet to contract the virus, it is still worth getting the vaccine."
The Institute for Public Health recommends seeing a doctor at the first signs of flu, then staying home to avoid infecting others through close contact in the classroom or workplace.