Utrecht blood banks to start testing for West Nile virus
Blood banks in the Utrecht region will start testing donated blood for the West Nile virus, following the first known case of a person getting the virus in the Netherlands, Hart van Nederland reports.
A spokesperson for blood bank Sanquin told Hart van Nederland that they are ready to start testing. "We had known for some time that the virus was advancing further north, so the scenarios were already ready. Because the virus can also be transmitted via blood, we will also test the blood for it, now that this first infection has taken place in our country," the spokesperson said.
Infection expert Hans van Kerhof of public health institute RIVM told the current affairs program that the arrival of West Nile virus in the Netherlands will not be on the scale of the coronavirus epidemic. The only way this virus can be transmitted from person to person is through blood transfusion, he explained. The virus is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes, who get it from drinking the blood of infected birds.
In the first stage, testing for the West Nile virus will only happen in Utrecht, because that is where the Dutch patient likely got the virus from a mosquito bite. In August and September, birds and mosquitoes with the virus were also found near Utrecht. But this is not just a regional problem, Kerkhof stressed. "We did research in the area, so it was found there. But if you look at migratory birds in other places in the Netherlands, you are guaranteed to find something."
The RIVM will also be informing doctors to watch out for symptoms of the West Nile virus. "We will send a message about this to doctors, so that they are aware and can also give this diagnosis when necessary," Kerkhof said.