The chikungunya epidemic in the Dutch Caribbean has passed its peak point, but is expected to periodically return to the region in the coming years, probably in a smaller format, Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week, about which The Daily Herald reports. The minister sent the letter [red: see the letter also published on Saba-News of the 16th of January], which was released on Friday, in response to a request by the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, specifically called for by Member of Parliament Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA. Van Laar wanted to know what the Dutch government was doing to help tackle the chikungunya epidemic on the islands.
Plasterk, who starts his visit to all three Windward Islands this Sunday, explained that there was no medical treatment for chikungunya, other than relieving the symptoms and treating the possible complications. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment RIVM has supported the islands with the necessary diagnostics, which were initially locally not possible. The RIVM also facilitated training on Curaçao and St. Maarten about the use of proper technical diagnostics and has advised on equipment and reagents, a chemical substance used in lab tests. An entomologist has organised training on St. Maarten on the eradication of mosquitoes, the insect that carries the chikungunya virus.
The RIVM furthermore offered support in the registration and reporting of the chikungunya cases to the European Union (EU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in order to comply with international legislation and properly document the course of the illness. A mandatory reporting system for chikungunya cases has been introduced for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
Plasterk stated that it is expected that, in the future, the illness will manifest itself in the region periodically in the form of possibly smaller, yearly epidemics because not all residents have been infected in the first epidemic, which started late 2013.
Research of a more effective combating of the eradication of mosquitoes would be useful, but this concerns a difficult and long-existing problem in which the WHO plays an important role, Plasterk stated. In his letter, the minister gave a summary of the current status of affairs regarding the chikungunya epidemic in the Caribbean. He explained that the first cases were diagnosed on St. Maarten/St. Martin late 2013, after which the virus has spread to almost all countries within the tropical regions of North and South America.
St. Maarten/St. Martin was mainly hit late 2013 and in the winter of 2014. On St. Eustatius, there was an epidemic in the summer of 2014, and to a lesser extent, on Aruba. Curaçao was hard-hit late 2014 and the winter of 2014/2015. The epidemic in Curaçao is currently clearly decreasing, stated Plasterk.
So far, Bonaire seems to have been spared, though some patients have been reported on this island, while Saba only reported a few import cases. “The general perception is that the epidemic has clearly passed its peak point,” he stated.
Dozens of people were diagnosed with chikungunya in the Netherlands during the epidemic in the Caribbean. These people had been infected by the virus during their visit to the islands. The risk of local spreading in the Netherlands is absent because the mosquitos that carry the virus, the yellow fewer mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), don’t survive in the Northern European climate.