RIVM assists BES islands to quickly diagnose zika infections

 

De Telegraaf reports that the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will assist the Dutch-Caribbean islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, to determine possible infections with the Zika virus. This is  confirmed by prof. Dr. J T van Dissel, director of the RIVM Centre for Infectious Disease Control.

The BES islands are located in a climatic zone where transmission of this pathogen by the so-called Aedes mosquito, is very likely. ,, We have now flown in  materials that facilitate a rapid diagnosis of the zika virus locally, “says internist infectious disease expert, Jaap van Dissel.

The RIVM confirmed that, up to last weekend, twelve ‘zika-infected persons have returned in the Netherlands, mainly from Suriname. None of them were pregnant. Neither of them became seriously ill, at most there was a (zika-) rush ‘which gives a flu-like impression. ,, In contrast to South and Central America, the number of infections in the European Netherlands of the zika virus is not an important issue. ”

Since May last year in Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Suriname, a few thousand infants were born with abnormalities of the central nervous system and to a small skull size (microcephaly).

However, recently, a child was born in Hawaii with a remarkably small head circumference and there is a suspicion of infection of the mother with the zika virus in the first trimester of her pregnancy. Consequently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set an alarm. The woman would have caught her infection during a short visit to Brazil.

Moreover, last weekend, health authorities in Rio de Janeiro have announced drastic measures against the spread of the zika virus. Four months before the start of the Olympic Games in August this year, the Brazilian city launched an extensive program to destroy mosquito breeding places chemically. During the Summer Games such inspections and cleaning operations will be performed daily.

Following the advice of the American health organization, CDC, experts of infectious diseases advise pregnant women around the world not to travel to areas where zika infestation is currently developing. The Dutch National Institute for Health and the Environment RIVM in Bilthoven has issued a similar advice. ,, We recommend pregnant women always to think carefully about travelling to areas, where a risk of malaria, dengue (dengue) and chikungunya infection is possible, and now also for zika ” says Van Dissel. ,, Therefore, our advice has not substantially changed: consult your doctor before travelling, or choose a different destination with less contamination risks to the unborn child. ”

In its zika-education, the RIVM reports a possible association with microcephaly, a remarkably small head circumference in relation to the developmental brains. But, according to Dr. Van Dissel, the causal link between this serious brain disorder and a zika-infection (transmitted through the placenta from mother to child) is by no means certain.

‘His’ institute mentions this possibility in case such causation will be proven. ,, At this moment, there is yet insufficient scientific knowledge, “says Van Dissel. ,, Research is ongoing at many places. It remains to be seen yet, if the virus causes the increase in the number of babies born with a small head. Because more attention has always resulted in more cases being reported. But apart from that: even without this virus, the have always been a number of children that are born with this brain problem.  Moreover, there are numerous variations of this disease. ”

In the Netherlands, about one in 1300-6000 births per year are born with a too small skull. In the US there are approximately 25,000 babies per year born with this particular disorder.

Also, in Latin America, it is currently being investigated whether there is a direct link between the zika virus and the Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a progressive neuromuscular disorder.

 

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