In Flanders, we escape (temporarily) from dangerous …



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The type W that causes great anxiety in the Netherlands is a dangerous variant of meningococcus, a collective name for bacteria that can cause meningitis and blood poisoning. This year 18 Dutch died and 78 patients were counted. The National Institute of Public Health and Environment, therefore, decided in September to vaccinate adolescents against the bacteria.

Which population groups form a risk group?

Today, fourteen years of age are vaccinated in the Netherlands. Next year, children under the age of 18 will also be invited to be vaccinated against all types or variants (B, C, W and Y) of meningococcus. "Especially children and adolescents are vulnerable. The disease is transmitted from person to person and children are more in contact with each other than other age groups. Think of children and preschoolers in the nursery and young adults in the nightlife, "says Dr. Wesley Mattheus of the National Reference Center for Meningococcal Diseases. 85+ people are also at greater risk.

Should we be concerned that the infectious variant also occurs in Belgium?

"In Belgium meningococcus type W occurs sporadically," says Mattheus. "Every year we see two to three cases of the type-specific genetic clone type W, so popular in the Netherlands. But bacteria do not have national borders, so the situation can change quickly. This is why the reference center closely monitors the spread. We have seen an increase in bacteria a few years ago, but certainly not as extreme as in the Netherlands and in Britain. "It is difficult to predict if and when the spread of the dangerous bacteria will begin to increase.

The Flemish Care and Health Agency is also involved in this. & # 39; We closely monitor what is happening in the Netherlands. In Flanders, we see few infections and are currently escaping a breakthrough. So there's no reason to worry, "says spokesman Joris Moonens.

How is the disease recognizable?

The classic complaints of meningitis are very quickly high fever, red spots and stiff muscles and neck. Meningitis develops within 24 hours. "But in some cases of type W meningococcus, the fever lasts longer and the symptoms are underestimated," Mattheus says. "The consequences are equally fatal and this makes the W type even more dangerous."

According to Mattheus, about twenty to thirty percent of the population is a temporary carrier of all types of meningococcus, although these percentages may vary widely by age category. For young adults, for example, the percentage is higher. "But being a carrier does not mean that you actually have the disease. Because of a weakened immune system or a combination of a flu and a cold, bacteria can still enter the bloodstream and brain and then health status will become problematic.

How is the situation monitored in our country?

The National Reference Center for Meningococcus evaluates the situation daily and has a complete view of the spread of the bacteria. "Each new case is reported to us by a health inspector, who works" on the floor "and is in close contact with us," Mattheus says. Health inspectors and the National Reference Center for Meningococcus are regularly in contact with the Council Superior of Health. That federal authority has the authority to establish a vaccination campaign as great as in the Netherlands, if that is necessary.

In Flanders, fifteen-month-old babies are vaccinated against type C meningococci. There are also type B vaccines, but they are not part of the basic vaccination schedule. The Higher Council of Health is currently reviewing this vaccination record.

Are we ready for a breakthrough?

"We certainly will not be surprised at a possible rise of meningococcus in our country," says Joris Moonens, referring to close monitoring. There are also vaccines against the W variant (by medical prescription).

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