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1.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed ; 18(1): 29, 2022 Apr 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1779659

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: As a hard-hit area during the COVID-19 pandemic, Belgium knew the highest mortality among people from sub-Saharan African descent, compared to any other group living in the country. After migration, people often maintain traditional perceptions and habits regarding health and healthcare, resulting in a high prevalence of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine use among different migrant communities in northern urban settings. Despite being the largest community of sub-Saharan African descent in Belgium, little is known on ethnobotanical practices of the Belgian Congolese community. We therefore conducted an exploratory study on the use of medicinal plants in the context of COVID-19 and perceptions on this new disease among members of the Congolese community in Belgium. METHODS: We conducted 16 in-depth semi-structured interviews with people of Congolese descent currently living in Belgium. Participants were selected using purposive sampling. Medicinal plant use in the context of COVID-19 was recorded through free-listing. Data on narratives, ideas and perceptions on the origin, cause/aetiology and overall measures against COVID-19 (including vaccination) were collected. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: Four overarching themes emerged from our data. Firstly, participants perceived the representation of the severity of COVID-19 by the Belgian media and government-and by extend by all governmental agencies in the global north-as exaggerated. As a result, traditional and complementary treatments were seen as feasible options to treat symptoms of the disease. Fifteen forms of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine were documented, of which thirteen were plants. Participants seem to fold back on their Congolese identity and traditional knowledge in seeking coping strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, institutional postcolonial distrust did not only seem to lead to distrust in official messages on the COVID-19 pandemic but also to feelings of vaccination hesitancy. CONCLUSION: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, participants in our study retreated to, reshaped and adapted traditional and culture-bound knowledge. This study suggests that the fragile and sensitive relationship between sub-Saharan African migrant groups and other social/ethnic groups in Belgium might play a role in their sensitivity to health-threatening situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Complementary Therapies , Plants, Medicinal , Belgium , Ethnobotany , Humans , Pandemics
2.
Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 19(7)2022 Apr 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1776231

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many countries to issue far-reaching policy measures that may have led to increased substance use. Higher education students may have been disproportionally affected due to the rearrangement of educational life and their susceptibility to psychosocial distress and substance use. The current study examined associations between pandemic-related stressors, psychosocial distress, and self-reported alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use before and during the first wave of the pandemic. Data were collected in Belgium as part of the COVID-19 International Student Well-being Study (C19 ISWS) and analyzed using multinomial logistic regression analyses. The sample contained 18,346 higher education students aged 17 to 24 (75% women). Overall use of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis as well as binge drinking decreased during the pandemic, perhaps due to limited social gatherings. Moving back to the parental home was associated with decreased substance use, while depressive symptoms were associated with increased substance use. Perceived threat and academic stress were associated with increased binge drinking among heavy bingers and increased tobacco use. Decreases among students who moved back to their parental home may be explained by increased informal social control. Increased substance use was associated with a number of stressors and psychosocial distress, which suggests that some students may have been self-medicating to manage their mental health amidst the pandemic. Public health policy concerning substance use may prove to be less effective if not tailored to particular subgroups within the student population.


Subject(s)
Binge Drinking , COVID-19 , Cannabis , Substance-Related Disorders , Belgium/epidemiology , Binge Drinking/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Female , Humans , Male , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , Students/psychology , Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology
3.
PLoS Comput Biol ; 18(3): e1009965, 2022 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1770639

ABSTRACT

Several important aspects related to SARS-CoV-2 transmission are not well known due to a lack of appropriate data. However, mathematical and computational tools can be used to extract part of this information from the available data, like some hidden age-related characteristics. In this paper, we present a method to investigate age-specific differences in transmission parameters related to susceptibility to and infectiousness upon contracting SARS-CoV-2 infection. More specifically, we use panel-based social contact data from diary-based surveys conducted in Belgium combined with the next generation principle to infer the relative incidence and we compare this to real-life incidence data. Comparing these two allows for the estimation of age-specific transmission parameters. Our analysis implies the susceptibility in children to be around half of the susceptibility in adults, and even lower for very young children (preschooler). However, the probability of adults and the elderly to contract the infection is decreasing throughout the vaccination campaign, thereby modifying the picture over time.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Adult , Age Factors , Aged , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Child , Child, Preschool , Humans , Incidence , SARS-CoV-2
4.
Viruses ; 14(3)2022 03 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1742731

ABSTRACT

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) of SARS-CoV-2 has been used as a complementary indicator to follow up on the trends in the COVID-19 spread in Belgium and in many other countries. To further develop the use of WBE, a multiplex digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) assay was optimized, validated and applied for the measurement of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) in influent wastewater (IWW) samples. Key mutations were targeted in the different VOC strains, including SΔ69/70 deletion, N501Y, SΔ241 and SΔ157. The presented bioanalytical method was able to distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 RNA originating from the wild-type and B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and B.1.617.2 variants. The dPCR assay proved to be sensitive enough to detect low concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in IWW since the limit of detection of the different targets ranged between 0.3 and 2.9 copies/µL. This developed WBE approach was applied to IWW samples originating from different Belgian locations and was able to monitor spatio-temporal changes in the presence of targeted VOC strains in the investigated communities. The present dPCR assay developments were realized to bring added-value to the current national WBE of COVID-19 by also having the spatio-temporal proportions of the VoC in presence in the wastewaters.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/epidemiology , Humans , Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction , Pandemics , RNA, Viral/analysis , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Waste Water
5.
Euro Surveill ; 27(9)2022 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1731711

ABSTRACT

BackgroundTo control epidemic waves, it is important to know the susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 and its evolution over time in relation to the control measures taken.AimTo assess the evolving SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence and seroincidence related to the first national lockdown in Belgium, we performed a nationwide seroprevalence study, stratified by age, sex and region using 3,000-4,000 residual samples during seven periods between 30 March and 17 October 2020.MethodsWe analysed residual sera from ambulatory patients for IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 S1 protein with a semiquantitative commercial ELISA. Weighted seroprevalence (overall and by age category and sex) and seroincidence during seven consecutive periods were estimated for the Belgian population while accommodating test-specific sensitivity and specificity.ResultsThe weighted overall seroprevalence initially increased from 1.8% (95% credible interval (CrI): 1.0-2.6) to 5.3% (95% CrI: 4.2-6.4), implying a seroincidence of 3.4% (95% CrI: 2.4-4.6) between the first and second collection period over a period of 3 weeks during lockdown (start lockdown mid-March 2020). Thereafter, seroprevalence stabilised, however, significant decreases were observed when comparing the third with the fifth, sixth and seventh period, resulting in negative seroincidence estimates after lockdown was lifted. We estimated for the last collection period mid-October 2020 a weighted overall seroprevalence of 4.2% (95% CrI: 3.1-5.2).ConclusionDuring lockdown, an initially small but increasing fraction of the Belgian population showed serologically detectable signs of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, which did not further increase when confinement measures eased and full lockdown was lifted.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antibodies, Viral , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control , Cross-Sectional Studies , Humans , Immunoglobulin G , Prospective Studies , Seroepidemiologic Studies
6.
Int J Equity Health ; 20(1): 258, 2021 12 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1724494

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Belgium was one of the countries that was struck hard by COVID-19. Initially, the belief was that we were 'all in it together'. Emerging evidence showed however that deprived socioeconomic groups suffered disproportionally. Yet, few studies are available for Belgium. The main question addressed in this paper is whether excess mortality during the first COVID-19 wave followed a social gradient and whether the classic mortality gradient was reproduced. METHODS: We used nationwide individually linked data from the Belgian National Register and the Census 2011. Age-standardized all-cause mortality rates were calculated during the first COVID-19 wave in weeks 11-20 in 2020 and compared with the rates during weeks 11-20 in 2015-2019 to calculate absolute and relative excess mortality by socioeconomic and -demographic characteristics. For both periods, relative inequalities in total mortality between socioeconomic and -demographic groups were calculated using Poisson regression. Analyses were stratified by age, gender and care home residence. RESULTS: Excess mortality during the first COVID-19 wave was high in collective households, with care homes hit extremely hard by the pandemic. The social patterning of excess mortality was rather inconsistent and deviated from the usual gradient, mainly through higher mortality excesses among higher socioeconomic groups classes in specific age-sex groups. Overall, the first COVID-19 wave did not change the social patterning of mortality, however. Differences in relative inequalities between both periods were generally small and insignificant, except by household living arrangement. CONCLUSION: The social patterning during the first COVID-19 wave was exceptional as excess mortality did not follow the classic lines of higher mortality in lower classes and patterns were not always consistent. Relative mortality inequalities did not change substantially during the first COVID-19 wave compared to the reference period.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Belgium/epidemiology , Humans , Infant , Mortality , Pandemics , Residence Characteristics , SARS-CoV-2 , Socioeconomic Factors
7.
J Med Virol ; 94(4): 1481-1487, 2022 Apr.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1718392

ABSTRACT

In-center maintenance hemodialysis (HD) patients are at high risk of acquiring coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by cross-contamination inside the unit. The aim of this study was to assess retrospectively the dynamics of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission during the very first pandemic phase (March-July 2020) in a cohort of in-center maintenance HD patients and in nurses the same HD facility, using a phylogenetic approach. All SARS-CoV-2 quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction positive patients and nurses from our HD unit-respectively 10 out of 98, and 8 out of 58- and two other positive patients dialyzed in our self-care unit were included. Whole-genome viral sequencing and phylogenetic analysis supported the cluster investigation. Five positive patients were usually dialyzed in the same room and same shift before their COVID-19 diagnosis was made. Viral sequencing performed on 4/5 patients' swabs showed no phylogenetic link between their viruses. The fifth patient (whose virus could not be sequenced) was dialyzed at the end of the dialysis room and was treated by a different nurse than the one in charge of the other patients. Three nurses shared the same virus detected in both self-care patients (one of them had been transferred to our in-center facility). The epidemiologically strongly suspected intra-unit cluster could be ruled out by viral genome sequencing. The infection control policy did not allow inter-patient contamination within the HD facility, in contrast to evidence of moderate dissemination within the nursing staff and in the satellite unit. Epidemiologic data without phylogenetic confirmation might mislead the interpretation of the dynamics of viral spreading within congregate settings.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/transmission , Infection Control/methods , Renal Dialysis , Aged , Belgium , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19 Testing , Female , Genome, Viral , Humans , Kidney Failure, Chronic/therapy , Male , Middle Aged , Phylogeny , Retrospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
8.
PLoS One ; 16(11): e0259908, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1705817

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: The incidence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in the Belgian community is mainly estimated based on test results of patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-like symptoms. The aim of this study was to investigate the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) positivity ratio and distribution of viral loads within a cohort of asymptomatic patients screened prior hospitalization or surgery, stratified by age category. MATERIALS/METHODS: We retrospectively studied data on SARS-CoV-2 real-time RT-PCR detection in respiratory tract samples of asymptomatic patients screened pre-hospitalization or pre-surgery in nine Belgian hospitals located in Flanders over a 12-month period (1 April 2020-31 March 2021). RESULTS: In total, 255925 SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test results and 2421 positive results for which a viral load was reported, were included in this study. An unweighted overall SARS-CoV-2 real-time RT-PCR positivity ratio of 1.27% was observed with strong spatiotemporal differences. SARS-CoV-2 circulated predominantly in 80+ year old individuals across all time periods except between the first and second COVID-19 wave and in 20-30 year old individuals before the second COVID-19 wave. In contrast to the first wave, a significantly higher positivity ratio was observed for the 20-40 age group in addition to the 80+ age group compared to the other age groups during the second wave. The median viral load follows a similar temporal evolution as the positivity rate with an increase ahead of the second wave and highest viral loads observed for 80+ year old individuals. CONCLUSION: There was a high SARS-CoV-2 circulation among asymptomatic patients with a predominance and highest viral loads observed in the elderly. Moreover, ahead of the second COVID-19 wave an increase in median viral load was noted with the highest overall positivity ratio observed in 20-30 year old individuals, indicating they could have been the hidden drivers of this wave.


Subject(s)
Asymptomatic Diseases/epidemiology , COVID-19/diagnosis , Respiratory Tract Infections/epidemiology , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/pathology , COVID-19/virology , Female , Hospitalization , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Respiratory Tract Infections/pathology , Respiratory Tract Infections/surgery , Respiratory Tract Infections/virology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Young Adult
9.
Euro Surveill ; 27(7)2022 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1703383

ABSTRACT

BackgroundCOVID-19 mortality, excess mortality, deaths per million population (DPM), infection fatality ratio (IFR) and case fatality ratio (CFR) are reported and compared for many countries globally. These measures may appear objective, however, they should be interpreted with caution.AimWe examined reported COVID-19-related mortality in Belgium from 9 March 2020 to 28 June 2020, placing it against the background of excess mortality and compared the DPM and IFR between countries and within subgroups.MethodsThe relation between COVID-19-related mortality and excess mortality was evaluated by comparing COVID-19 mortality and the difference between observed and weekly average predictions of all-cause mortality. DPM were evaluated using demographic data of the Belgian population. The number of infections was estimated by a stochastic compartmental model. The IFR was estimated using a delay distribution between infection and death.ResultsIn the study period, 9,621 COVID-19-related deaths were reported, which is close to the excess mortality estimated using weekly averages (8,985 deaths). This translates to 837 DPM and an IFR of 1.5% in the general population. Both DPM and IFR increase with age and are substantially larger in the nursing home population.DiscussionDuring the first pandemic wave, Belgium had no discrepancy between COVID-19-related mortality and excess mortality. In light of this close agreement, it is useful to consider the DPM and IFR, which are both age, sex, and nursing home population-dependent. Comparison of COVID-19 mortality between countries should rather be based on excess mortality than on COVID-19-related mortality.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Belgium/epidemiology , Humans , Mortality , Nursing Homes , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2
10.
PLoS One ; 17(2): e0264516, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1703088

ABSTRACT

Soon after SARS-CoV-2 emerged in late 2019, Belgium was confronted with a first COVID-19 wave in March-April 2020. SARS-CoV-2 circulation declined in the summer months (late May to early July 2020). Following a successfully trumped late July-August peak, COVID-19 incidence fell slightly, to then enter two successive phases of rapid incline: in the first half of September, and then again in October 2020. The first of these coincided with the peak period of returning summer travelers; the second one coincided with the start of higher education's academic year. The largest observed COVID-19 incidence occurred in the period 16-31 October, particularly in the Walloon Region, the southern, French-speaking part of Belgium. We examine the potential association of the higher education population with spatio-temporal spread of COVID-19, using Bayesian spatial Poisson models for confirmed test cases, accounting for socio-demographic heterogeneity in the population. We find a significant association between the number of COVID-19 cases in the age groups 18-29 years and 30-39 years and the size of the higher education student population at the municipality level. These results can be useful towards COVID-19 mitigation strategies, particularly in areas where virus transmission from higher education students into the broader community could exacerbate morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 among populations with prevalent underlying conditions associated with more severe outcomes following infection.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Universities , Adolescent , Adult , Belgium , Humans , Incidence , Pandemics , Prevalence , Students , Young Adult
11.
BMC Prim Care ; 23(1): 18, 2022 01 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1690970

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The knowledge of risk perceptions in primary care could help health authorities to manage epidemics. METHODS: A European multi-center cross-sectional study was conducted in France, Belgium and Spain to describe the perceptions, the level of anxiety and the feeling of preparedness of primary healthcare physicians towards the COVID-19 infection at the beginning of the pandemic. The factors associated with the feeling of preparedness were studied using multivariate logistic regressions. RESULTS: A total of 511 physicians participated to the study (response rate: 35.2%). Among them, only 16.3% (n=82) were highly anxious about the pandemic, 50.6% (n=254) had the feeling to have a high level of information, 80.5% (n=409) found the measures taken by the health authorities suitable to limit the spread of COVID-19, and 45.2% (n=229) felt prepared to face the epidemic. Factors associated with feeling prepared were: being a Spanish practitioner (adjusted OR=4.34; 95%CI [2.47; 7.80]), being a man (aOR=2.57, 95%CI [1.69; 3.96]), finding the measures taken by authorities appropriate (aOR=1.72, 95%CI [1.01; 3.00]) and being highly informed (aOR=4.82, 95%CI [2.62; 9.19]). CONCLUSIONS: Regarding the dramatic evolution of the pandemic in Europe in the weeks following the study, it appears that information available at this time and transmitted to the physicians could have given a wrong assessment of the spread and the severity of the disease. It seems essential to better integrate the primary care physicians into the information, training and protection channels. A comparison between countries could help to select the most effective measures in terms of information and communication.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Physicians, Primary Care , Belgium/epidemiology , Cross-Sectional Studies , France/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Pandemics/prevention & control , Perception , SARS-CoV-2 , Spain/epidemiology
12.
BMC Cancer ; 22(1): 183, 2022 Feb 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1690945

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Many breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer screening programs were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to estimate the short-term impact of the temporary shutdown (from March until May- June) of the cancer screening programs invitations in Flanders (Belgium) by looking at invitation coverage, percentage of people screened after invitation and the screening interval. METHODS: Yearly invitation coverage was calculated as the number of people who received an invitation, as a proportion of the people who should have received an invitation that year. Weekly response to the invitation was calculated as the number of people who were screened within 40 days of their date of invitation, as a percentage of the people who received an invitation that week (as a proxy for willingness to screen). Weekly screening interval was calculated as the mean number of months between the current screening and the previous screening of all the people who screened that week. The two last indicators were calculated for each week in 2019 and 2020, after which the difference between that week's value in 2020 and 2019 with 95% confidence intervals. Results of these two indicators were also analysed after stratification for gender, age and participation history. RESULTS: Invitation coverage was not impacted in the colorectal and cervical cancer screening program. In the breast cancer screening program invitation coverage went down from 97.5% (2019) to 88.7% (2020), and the backlog of invitations was largely resolved in the first six months of 2021. The willingness to screen was minimally influenced by COVID-19. The breast cancer screening program had a temporary increase in screening interval in the first months following the restart after COVID-19 related shutdown, when it was on average 2.1 months longer than in 2019. CONCLUSIONS: Willingness to screen was minimally influenced by COVID-19, but there may be an influence on screening coverage because of lower invitation coverage, mainly for the for breast Cancer Screening Program. The increases in screening intervals for the three Cancer Screening Program seem reasonable and would probably not significantly increase the risk of delayed screening cancer diagnoses. When restarting a Cancer Screening Program after a COVID-19 related shutdown, monitoring is crucial.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/prevention & control , Early Detection of Cancer/statistics & numerical data , Adult , Aged , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Delivery of Health Care/statistics & numerical data , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Neoplasms/diagnosis , Patient Participation/statistics & numerical data , SARS-CoV-2
13.
Front Cell Infect Microbiol ; 11: 825427, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1690458

ABSTRACT

Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important and frequently carried respiratory pathogen that has the potential to cause serious invasive diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Young children and older adults are among the most vulnerable to developing serious disease. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant restrictive measures, invasive disease cases caused by respiratory bacterial species, including pneumococci, decreased substantially. Notably, the stringency of the containment measures as well as the visible reduction in the movement of people appeared to coincide with the drop in invasive disease cases. One could argue that wearing protective masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines to halt the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also led to a reduction in the person-to-person transmission of respiratory bacterial species. Although plausible, this conjecture is challenged by novel data obtained from our nasopharyngeal carriage study which is performed yearly in healthy daycare center attending children. A sustained and high pneumococcal carriage rate was observed amid periods of stringent restrictive measures. This finding prompts us to revisit the connection between nasopharyngeal colonization and invasion and invites us to look closer at the nasopharyngeal microbiome as a whole.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pneumococcal Infections , Aged , Belgium , Carrier State/epidemiology , Child , Child, Preschool , Humans , Infant , Nasopharynx , Pandemics , Pneumococcal Infections/epidemiology , Pneumococcal Infections/prevention & control , Pneumococcal Vaccines , SARS-CoV-2 , Streptococcus pneumoniae
14.
J Med Life ; 14(6): 816-822, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1675552

ABSTRACT

The research aims to suggest the most enabling indicator of COVID-19 resistance in Belgium and Norway by studying the dynamics of staff and bed security indicators of the primary health care sector. The research methodology comprises Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistical analysis of staff and bed security indicators. The reason for choosing Belgium and Norway for comparative analysis regarding the readiness to face the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of staff and bed security is because Belgium is leading by the highest level and Norway is leading by the lowest level of morbidity and mortality per 1 million population. The study revealed that the greatest enabler of the primary health care system efficiency in terms of resistance to COVID-19 is primary health care staff security. The analysis clearly shows that the number of beds is not paramount for the effectiveness of the healthcare system and primary health care. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deficiencies and weaknesses of primary health care systems of all countries of the world. The research results suggest that Belgium and other countries focus on the education of nurses and therapists. The significance of the research results is that they prove that the main factor of the effectiveness of the primary health care system is its human resources. This information is useful for improving health systems in many countries around the world.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Belgium/epidemiology , Humans , Pandemics , Primary Health Care , SARS-CoV-2
15.
BMC Public Health ; 22(1): 245, 2022 02 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1673909

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Belgium has been hit by a series of surges in the number of COVID-19 cases. Each of these resulted in more stringent measures being taken to curb the pandemic. This study compared perception of and adherence to COVID-19 measures of the Belgian population at two time periods: September 2020 (survey 1) and April/May 2021 (survey 2). METHODS: Two samples of approximately 2000 participants, representative for the Belgian population in terms of gender, age, province and socio-economic status, participated in an online survey. The survey questionnaire measured the perceived infection risk and severity, and the perception of and adherence to protective measures. Answers were compared between the time periods and risk factors for lower adherence were identified using multivariate linear regression. RESULTS: In survey 2, at which time the measures were more stringent, respondents assessed the risk of infection for themselves as lower, and for parents and grandparents as higher than in survey 1. Scores for understanding and usefulness of the measures were higher in survey 2 compared to survey 1, while reported past and future adherence were lower. Risk factors for a lower adherence were being male, being young, speaking French vs. Dutch, and having undergone a symptomatic infection. CONCLUSIONS: It is important to consider the potential effect of fatigue among the population with regards to measures that are sustained for a long time, especially regarding measures related to social contacts. The identified risk factors for lower adherence offer insights to policy makers for future crisis communication regarding COVID-19.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Belgium/epidemiology , Humans , Male , Pandemics , Perception , SARS-CoV-2 , Surveys and Questionnaires
16.
BMJ Open ; 12(1): e054688, 2022 01 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1662315

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: National SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence data provide essential information about population exposure to the virus and help predict the future course of the epidemic. Early cohort studies have suggested declines in levels of antibodies in individuals associated with, for example, illness severity, age and comorbidities. This protocol focuses on the seroprevalence among primary healthcare providers (PHCPs) in Belgium. PHCPs manage the vast majority of (COVID-19) patients and therefore play an essential role in the efficient organisation of healthcare. Currently, evidence is lacking on (1) how many PHCPs get infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Belgium, (2) the rate at which this happens, (3) their clinical spectrum, (4) their risk factors, (5) the effectiveness of the measures to prevent infection and (6) the accuracy of the serology-based point-of-care test (POCT) in a primary care setting. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This study will be set up as a prospective cohort study. General practitioners (GPs) and other PHCPs (working in a GP practice) will be recruited via professional networks and professional media outlets to register online to participate. Registered GPs and other PHCPs will be asked at each testing point (n=9) to perform a capillary blood sample antibody POCT targeting IgM and IgG against the receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 and complete an online questionnaire. The primary outcomes are the prevalence and incidence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in PHCPs during a 12-month follow-up period. Secondary outcomes include the longevity of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval has been granted by the ethics committee of the University Hospital of Antwerp/University of Antwerp (Belgian registration number: 3002020000237). Alongside journal publications, dissemination activities include the publication of monthly reports to be shared with the participants and the general population through the publicly available website of the Belgian health authorities (Sciensano). TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT04779424.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Belgium/epidemiology , Cohort Studies , Health Personnel , Humans , Incidence , Prevalence , Prospective Studies , Seroepidemiologic Studies
17.
Health Econ Policy Law ; 17(1): 37-47, 2022 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1655389

ABSTRACT

Belgium is often seen as an outlier in the international experience with the coronavirus disease 2019. We summarize the unfolding of the pandemic in Belgium from February to December 2020, discuss the countermeasures that were implemented and provide some explanations why the numbers indicate a stronger pandemic in Belgium than in its neighbouring countries. To some extent, the seemingly poor performance of Belgium is a measurement artefact. Yet, there were indeed particular factors in Belgium that unnecessarily increased the toll of the pandemic. In the first wave insufficient priority was given to protect care homes. The second wave was larger than necessary due to a failure to timely implement restrictive measures. The latter can, at least partly, be explained by a unique political situation: a temporary, minority government in the middle of a major crisis.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pandemics , Belgium/epidemiology , Government , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2
18.
Lancet ; 399(10323): 461-472, 2022 01 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1641748

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: A range of safe and effective vaccines against SARS CoV 2 are needed to address the COVID 19 pandemic. We aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine SCB-2019. METHODS: This ongoing phase 2 and 3 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was done in adults aged 18 years and older who were in good health or with a stable chronic health condition, at 31 sites in five countries (Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Philippines, and South Africa). The participants were randomly assigned 1:1 using a centralised internet randomisation system to receive two 0·5 mL intramuscular doses of SCB-2019 (30 µg, adjuvanted with 1·50 mg CpG-1018 and 0·75 mg alum) or placebo (0·9% sodium chloride for injection supplied in 10 mL ampoules) 21 days apart. All study staff and participants were masked, but vaccine administrators were not. Primary endpoints were vaccine efficacy, measured by RT-PCR-confirmed COVID-19 of any severity with onset from 14 days after the second dose in baseline SARS-CoV-2 seronegative participants (the per-protocol population), and the safety and solicited local and systemic adverse events in the phase 2 subset. This study is registered on EudraCT (2020-004272-17) and ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT04672395). FINDINGS: 30 174 participants were enrolled from March 24, 2021, until the cutoff date of Aug 10, 2021, of whom 30 128 received their first assigned vaccine (n=15 064) or a placebo injection (n=15 064). The per-protocol population consisted of 12 355 baseline SARS-CoV-2-naive participants (6251 vaccinees and 6104 placebo recipients). Most exclusions (13 389 [44·4%]) were because of seropositivity at baseline. There were 207 confirmed per-protocol cases of COVID-19 at 14 days after the second dose, 52 vaccinees versus 155 placebo recipients, and an overall vaccine efficacy against any severity COVID-19 of 67·2% (95·72% CI 54·3-76·8), 83·7% (97·86% CI 55·9-95·4) against moderate-to-severe COVID-19, and 100% (97·86% CI 25·3-100·0) against severe COVID-19. All COVID-19 cases were due to virus variants; vaccine efficacy against any severity COVID-19 due to the three predominant variants was 78·7% (95% CI 57·3-90·4) for delta, 91·8% (44·9-99·8) for gamma, and 58·6% (13·3-81·5) for mu. No safety issues emerged in the follow-up period for the efficacy analysis (median of 82 days [IQR 63-103]). The vaccine elicited higher rates of mainly mild-to-moderate injection site pain than the placebo after the first (35·7% [287 of 803] vs 10·3% [81 of 786]) and second (26·9% [189 of 702] vs 7·4% [52 of 699]) doses, but the rates of other solicited local and systemic adverse events were similar between the groups. INTERPRETATION: Two doses of SCB-2019 vaccine plus CpG and alum provides notable protection against the entire severity spectrum of COVID-19 caused by circulating SAR-CoV-2 viruses, including the predominating delta variant. FUNDING: Clover Biopharmaceuticals and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.


Subject(s)
Adjuvants, Immunologic/therapeutic use , COVID-19 Vaccines/therapeutic use , COVID-19/prevention & control , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/therapeutic use , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , Alum Compounds/therapeutic use , Belgium , Brazil , Colombia , Double-Blind Method , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Oligodeoxyribonucleotides/therapeutic use , Philippines , Protein Multimerization , Recombinant Proteins/therapeutic use , Risk , SARS-CoV-2 , South Africa , Young Adult
19.
Comput Math Methods Med ; 2022: 4168619, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1639379

ABSTRACT

Since December 2019, a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread all over the world, causing unpredictable economic losses and public fear. Although vaccines against this virus have been developed and administered for months, many countries still suffer from secondary COVID-19 infections, including the United Kingdom, France, and Malaysia. Observations of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom and France and their governance measures showed a certain number of similarities. A further investigation of these countries' COVID-19 transmission patterns suggested that when a turning point appeared, the values of their stringency indices per population density (PSI) were nearly proportional to their absolute infection rate (AIR). To justify our assumptions, we developed a mathematical model named VSHR to predict the COVID-19 turning point for Malaysia. VSHR was first trained on 30-day infection records prior to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Belgium's known turning points. It was then transferred to Malaysian COVID-19 data to predict this nation's turning point. Given the estimated AIR parameter values in 5 days, we were now able to locate the turning point's appearance on June 2nd, 2021. VSHR offered two improvements: (1) gathered countries into groups based on their SI patterns and (2) generated a model to identify the turning point for a target country within 5 days with 90% CI. Our research on COVID-19's turning point for a country is beneficial for governments and clinical systems against future COVID-19 infections.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Epidemics , SARS-CoV-2 , Algorithms , Belgium/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , Computational Biology , Computer Simulation , Epidemics/statistics & numerical data , France/epidemiology , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Malaysia/epidemiology , United Kingdom/epidemiology
20.
Scand J Work Environ Health ; 48(3): 220-228, 2022 Apr 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1625794

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: In many countries, organisations are legally obliged to have occupational physicians screen employees regularly. However, this system is time-intensive, and there may be more cost-effective alternatives. Our objective is to compare the short-term effectiveness of periodic occupational health screening of hospital employees by an occupational physician with a system of electronic screening with targeted follow-up. METHODS: A randomized controlled trial was set up among personnel of four Belgian hospitals, with three measurement moments between June 2019 and December 2020, to compare differences in self-assessed health, healthcare use, productivity and intermediate outcomes over 19 months. Mixed effects models were used to assess differences in effectiveness. Superiority and non-inferiority post-hoc tests were used as a robustness check. The experiment coincided with the first two COVID-19 waves during which hospital employees were exposed to an exceptional period of occupational stress. RESULTS: In total, 1077 employees (34% of the target population) participated. Although we observed some immediate effects of the intervention (less trust in the physician, absenteeism, and healthcare use), all these effects disappeared over time. After 19 months, including two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations, no significant differences were observed between employees screened through face-to-face contact and those screened electronically. CONCLUSIONS: Our study finds no indication that, in the short-term, substituting physician screening of the workforce with a quicker survey-based screening with targeted follow-up has different effects on the studied endpoints. However, as health and disease are often the result of a long-term process, more evidence is needed to determine long-term effects.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Occupational Health , Belgium , COVID-19/epidemiology , Electronics , Hospitals , Humans
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