Read below for travel health advice on Belgium from the MDtravelhealth channel on Red Planet Travel.
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Summary of recommendations
In general, no special immunizations or medications are necessary for travel to Belgium.
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)||Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given|
|Tetanus-diphtheria||Revaccination recommended every 10 years|
|Influenza||Recommended for all travelers from November through April|
All children should be up-to-date on routine childhood immunizations, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, prior to international travel. The following are the recommended vaccinations for Belgium:
Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine: two doses are recommended (if not previously given) for all travelers born after 1956, unless blood tests show immunity. Many adults born after 1956 and before 1970 received only one vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella as children and should be given a second dose before travel. MMR vaccine should not be given to pregnant or severely immunocompromised individuals.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for all travelers during flu season, which runs from November through April. Influenza vaccine may cause soreness at the injection site, low-grade fevers, malaise, and muscle aches. Severe reactions are rare. Influenza vaccine should not be given to pregnant women during the first trimester or those allergic to eggs.
A measles resurgence was reported from Belgium in April 2011, causing a total of 382 cases for the first five months of the year,, compared to only 40 cases for all of 2010. The city of Ghent was particularly affected. The outbreak appeared to be due to inadequate vaccine coverage (see Eurosurveillance). Between August 2007 and May 2008, a measles outbreak involving orthodox Jewish communities in Antwerp caused at least 137 cases. Most of those affected were less than 10 years old (see Eurosurveillance). All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented measles immunizations or a blood test showing measles immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune to measles. Although measles immunization is usually begun at age 12 months, children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given an initial dose of measles or MMR vaccine before traveling to Belgium.
An increase in the number of hantavirus infections has been observed over the past three years. In Belgium, most hantavirus infections occur in the provinces of Luxembourg, Liège, Namur and Hainaut in the southeastern part of the country. Hantaviruses cause an illness known as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, chills, weakness, and dizziness, often associated with headache, muscle pains, and back ache. The main complication is kidney failure, sometimes requiring dialysis. In Belgium, the predominant hantavirus is Puumala virus, which is carried by the bank vole (a type of rodent which lives predominantly in forested areas dominated by deciduous trees). The virus is acquired by exposure to rodent excreta, usually by inhalation. Most travelers are at low risk for infection. For further information, go to Eurosurveillance and ProMED-mail (June 1, 2007).
An outbreak of H7N7 avian influenza ("bird flu"), apparently originating in the Netherlands, was reported from neighboring Belgium in May 2003. Unlike H5N1 avian influenza, which is highly pathogenic, H7N7 avian influenza poses little risk to humans. In Belgium, the only human infection resulting from this outbreak was a single case of conjunctivitis (pink-eye). The outbreak was terminated by mass slaughter of poultry. For further information, go to Eurosurveillance and the World Health Organization.
A small number of cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") have been identified, but transmission to humans has not been reported to date. At present, the risk of acquiring variant CJD from European beef appears to be extraordinarily low, at most about one in 10 billion servings. The Centers for Disease Control does not advise against eating European beef, but suggests that travelers who wish to reduce their risk may either abstain from beef while in Europe or eat only solid pieces of muscle meat, such as steak, rather than products like sausage or chopped meat that might be contaminated. There is no evidence of any risk from pork, lamb, milk or milk products. For recent updates, go to ProMED-mail.
An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease involving 80 people occurred in October-November 1999 following a trade fair in Kapellen. The outbreak appeared to be related to whirlpool baths exhibited at the show. A smaller outbreak occurred in September 2002, affecting six people who all stayed at the same hotel. See Eurosurveillance for details.
Bring adequate supplies of all medications in their original containers, clearly labeled. Carry a signed, dated letter from your personal physician describing all medical conditions and listing all medications, including generic names. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to carry a physician's letter documenting their medical necessity. Pack all medications in hand luggage. Carry a duplicate supply in the checked luggage. If you wear glasses or contacts, bring an extra pair. If you have significant allergies or chronic medical problems, wear a medical alert bracelet.
Pack a personal medical kit, customized for your trip (see description). Take appropriate measures to prevent motion sickness and jet lag, discussed elsewhere. On long flights, be sure to walk around the cabin, contract your leg muscles periodically, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent blood clots in the legs. For those at high risk for blood clots, consider wearing compression stockings.
Avoid contact with stray dogs and other animals. If an animal bites or scratches you, clean the wound with large amounts of soap and water and contact local health authorities immediately. Wear sun block regularly when needed. Use condoms for all sexual encounters. Ride only in motor vehicles with seat belts. Do not ride on motorcycles.
Ambulance and Emergency Services
For an ambulance in Belgium, call 100.
(reproduced from the U.S. State Dept. Consular Information Sheet)
High quality medical care is available. Health professionals in Brussels and Flanders often speak English, but those in French-speaking Wallonia often do not. Many health care facilities will expect payment in cash. Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. If illness occurs while abroad, medical expenses including evacuation may run to tens of thousands of dollars. For a list of travel insurance and air ambulance companies, go to Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad on the U.S. State Department website. Bring your insurance card, claim forms, and any other relevant insurance documents. Before departure, determine whether your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. The Medicare and Medicaid programs do not pay for medical services outside the United States.
Traveling with children
Before you leave, make sure you have the names and contact information for physicians, clinics, and hospitals where you can obtain emergency medical care if needed.
All children should be up-to-date on routine childhood immunizations, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children who are 12 months or older should receive a total of 2 doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, separated by at least 28 days, before international travel. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given a single dose of measles vaccine. MMR vaccine may be given if measles vaccine is not available, though immunization against mumps and rubella is not necessary before age one unless visiting a country where an outbreak is in progress. Children less than one year of age may also need to receive other immunizations ahead of schedule (see the accelerated immunization schedule).
Be sure to pack a medical kit when traveling with children. In addition to the items listed for adults, bring along plenty of disposable diapers, cream for diaper rash, and appropriate antibiotics for common childhood infections, such as middle ear infections.
Helpful maps are available in the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Collection and the United Nations map library. If you have the name of the town or city you'll be visiting and need to know which state or province it's in, you might find your answer in the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names.
(reproduced from the U.S. State Dept. Consular Information Sheet)
Americans living in or visiting Belgium are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Brussels through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Belgium. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, located at 25 Boulevard du Regent. The telephone number from the U.S. is 011-32-2-508-2111. Within Belgium, the telephone number is 02-508-2111. The Embassy’s fax number is 02-511-2725. The Consular Section’s fax number is 02-513-0409. The American Citizen Services Unit of the Consular Section is open from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for American and Belgian holidays. Further information can be obtained at the Embassy’s website at: http://www.usembassy.be.
For information on safety and security, go to the U.S. Department of State, United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Affairs Canada, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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