Coordination in Belgium
The Federal Council of Ministers has appointed Dr. Erika Vlieghe as national Ebola coordinator. Her assistant coordinator is Dr. Daniel Reynders of the federal public service (FPS) Health, Food chain safety and Environment. They are both in charge of the global management of actions on Ebola in Belgium and of the coordination of the information flow to professionals and the general public.
When a threat for public health such as Ebola arises, health authorities must take measures enabling to keep the risk for the Belgian population as low as possible. This is the task of the Risk Management Group. This group is composed of all health authorities deciding together what measures need to be taken in order to protect public health in Belgium. Decisions are taken on the basis of the advice of the Risk Assessment Group. The Risk Assessment Group analyses the riskof Ebola for the Belgian population on the basis of epidemiologic and scientific data. The Risk Assessment Group consists of:
- Physician epidemiologists from the Scientific Institute for Public Health (known as “WIV-ISP”)
- The federal and regional authorities competent for health
- Experts with specialized knowledge of Ebola
Within the FPS Health, Food chain safety and Environment, a departmental crisis cell has been created. The crisis cell is responsible for all operational aspects relating to the preparation to a possible Ebola case in Belgium. Working groups are active within this crisis cell, in which actors of public health, government partners from other fields and experts collaborate on the development of procedures, forms and the communication to citizens and professionals.
Saniport is the sanitary police of international traffic. The Saniport agents ensure the health of passengers and crew of aircraft and ships. Saniport is based at Brussels National Airport and in the ports of Antwerp, Ghent, Ostend and Zeebrugge. If a pilot or a captain reports a possible case of Ebola on board, Saniport is present 24/7 in order to take the necessary measures.
The health authorities of the Belgian communities and regions
Infectious diseases that (can) form a threat to public health, like Ebola, have to be reported to the physician responsible for infectious disease control of the health authority of the Belgian community or region in question. The health authorities are:
- Agentschap Zorg en Gezondheid (the Agency for Care and Health of the Flemish Community)
- The Common Community Commission of the Region of Brussels-Capital
- The Walloon Region
- The German-speaking Community
All general practitioners and other physicians, clinical laboratories, hospital physicians, care facilities, prevention services and the medical service of the airport have to report suspected Ebola infections immediately to the physician responsible for infectious disease control. The aim of this reporting obligation is to be able to take the necessary measures in time in order to prevent Ebola from spreading.
Any reported case of Ebola will be assessed by the physician responsible for infectious disease control, in consultation with several colleague physicians, like the treating physician, the infectiologist and the Ebola coordinator. In the event of a possible Ebola infection, the national Ebola procedure will be started. This implies that:
- The other Belgian health authorities will be informed.
- The transport of the patient to a referral hospital for Ebola will be organised.
- The patient’s diagnosis and treatment will be followed up.
- The patient’s contacts will be mapped out and followed up if the patient is found to have Ebola.
Reference hospitals for Ebola in Belgium
Every hospital in Belgium is equipped to detect Ebola infection and to place the patient in quarantine. In Belgium, a patient suspected or proven to have been infected with the Ebola virus is treated in one of three reference hospitals:
- The Saint-Peter’s Hospital in Brussels
- The Antwerp University Hospital
- The Leuven University Hospital
All three hospitals closely cooperate with the Belgian health authorities to ensure the safe treatment of the patient.