Netherlands, islands unite on infectious disease plan

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The four countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands reached an agreement on combating cross-border infectious diseases, and the control of bacteriological, radiological and chemical incidents. The countries will cooperate to meet the requirements of the International Health Regulation (IHR), the Dutch cabinet announced this week.

There are significant bacteriological risks for the Dutch Caribbean islands because of the flow of tourists, according to the government. At the same time, the number of people travelling between the islands is on the rise, increasing the chance of a regional infectious outbreak. The island of Curacao recently witnessed an outbreak of dengue fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. The insects also spread the chikungunya virus, diagnosed in hundreds of patients last year on the islands and in the Netherlands.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrated the need for adequate prevention and control of infectious diseases, says the government. This prompted the four countries to begin building joint capacities and systems to detect and combat the progress of the diseases.

"Together we are better protecting public health," Health Minister Edith Schippers commented on the agreement. "Today's agreement is beneficial for people from all our countries."

The IHR is a part of the World Health Organization. It sets requirements for detection, monitoring and responding to health incidents. One of the main requirements is the presence of strong facilities for treatment of patients with serious infectious diseases in airports and sea ports. All four countries recognize the IHR regulations through ratification by the Netherlands.