Virologist Martina expects Zika epidemic on ABC-islands

POSTED: 02/19/16 2:44 PM

 

byron-martinaVirologist Byron Martina. Photo Caribisch Netwerk / Pieter Hofmann

THE HAGUE – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are on the eve of a Zika-epidemic. That is the expectation of Byron Martina, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Poeter Hofmann reports on Caribisch Netwerk.

Martina hammers on cooperation between the countries in the Kingdom to combat Zika. “I think that the intention is there. Look at what you can do together and how you should organize that.”

The islands could use the expertise of the Erasmus Medical Center well. “The most important question is now: is Zika responsible for microcephaly? Because so far this has only been established in Brazil.”

Microcephaly is a condition whereby babies are born with an abnormally small skull and whereby the brain develops only partially. This has been recorded so far only in the poorest districts of Brazil. According to Martina, poverty leads to a decreased combat against mosquitoes; under those conditions mosquitoes transfer the virus more often.

“Curacao is not really poor, even though there are poor neighborhoods,” Martina says. “But you also have breeding sites in rich areas. In the end I think that an epidemic will erupt in Curacao and also on the other islands. You cannot prevent an epidemic that is transferred by mosquitoes.”

The Dutch parliament discussed the Zika virus on Wednesday. Minister Edith Schippers (Public Health) said that “a sense of urgency” in Caribbean Netherlands is sufficient.

Nevertheless, the minister is thinking about mandatory reporting. That is not the case yet, because the informal reporting system works alright according to Schippers.

The minister comes in April with a law proposal that makes the central government responsible for preventing the establishment of tropical mosquitoes in the Netherlands. Currently, this is the responsibility of municipalities. The minister thinks that measures can be better enforced under national supervision.

The mosquitoes have however already arrived in Caribbean Netherlands – on the islands of Saba, Statia and Bonaire.

Answering a question from parliamentarian Reinette Klever (PVB) whether it is not necessary to exterminate the mosquitoes in the BES-islands, the minister answered: “No, it is impossible to wipe out the mosquito over there.”

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