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A virus particle
An epidemic is a disease that affects many people in a certain area in a short period of time. The flu causes an epidemic every year during the winter months.

A pandemic is an epidemic that affects many people worldwide. This is much less common. The COVID-19 virus is the best known and most recent example of a pandemic.



You are sick:

  • Consult your doctor if you have flu symptoms.
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief if you have to sneeze.
  • Wash your hands regularly with water and soap. Be sure to wash them after you cough or sneeze and after you blow your nose.
  • Use paper tissues that you can dispose of in a sealed trash can.
  • Do not turn up the heating too high.
  • Do not go to school, work or any public place while you are sick.
  • Drink plenty of water (1.5 l per day).

Someone in your family/circle of friends is sick:

  • Wash your hands regularly with water and soap.
  • Do not drink from the same glass or eat from the same plate as the sick person.
  • Avoid close contact with the sick person.


  • Clean your home thoroughly. Especially surfaces that are touched by several persons (e.g. door handles, taps, etc.)
  • Wash your and your family's laundry at 60 °C or more.

Impact and probability

Spread of infectious diseases by globalisation. Impact: very low impact. Probability: likely.Disease for which no treatment and a limited supply of vaccines are available. Impact: low impact. Probability: likely.Diseases within the healthcare sector. Impact: low impact. Probability: very likely.In 2018, the National Crisis Center coordinated a large-scale risk assessment for Belgium for the period 2018-2023. Several experts assessed various risks based on their probability and their impact on people, society, the environment and the economy.

For the risk of 'spread of infectious diseases by globalisation', the analysis is:

  • Impact: very low impact
  • Probability: likely 

For the risk of 'disease for which no treatment and a limited supply of vaccines are available', the analysis is:

  • Impact: low impact 
  • Probability: likely

Some of the diseases that appear in our country are linked to the healthcare sector itself. They are infections you can get when visiting a hospital or other medical facility.

Some examples of hospital infections are tuberculosis, resistant bacteria and blood poisoning.

For the risk of 'diseases within the healthcare sector', the analysis is:

  • Impact: low impact
  • Probability: very likely 

Read more about this analysis and what these charts mean here. 

What do the authorities do?

Care providers who discover an infectious disease must always report this to Vivalis (Brussels Capital Region), AVIQ (Walloon Region and German-speaking Community) or the Agency for Care and Health (Flanders).

In the event of a threat to public health, there is a protocol agreement between the various health authorities. Together they take measures to minimise the risk. There are three phases to this:

  • Phase 1: keep the epidemic out of the country. Family doctors and hospitals are ready to identify and treat someone with symptoms.
  • Phase 2: stop the spread of the epidemic. If someone has symptoms, family doctors and hospitals try to prevent multiple infections through contact tracing.
  • Phase 3: manage hospital capacity.
    • Health authorities look at where additional capacity is needed, how best to distribute patients between different hospitals and which admissions can be delayed.
    • In the event of a large number of infections, the National Crisis Center can take on a coordinating role. At that point, the government can take additional measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic.