Dutch authorities have been contacting Muslim-majority countries and northern Africa to check for the latest versions of the yet-to-be-resolved deadly mosquito-borne virus CoVD-19 in a bid to stop it spreading.
The Netherlands has the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide of CoVD-19, which has been detected in Sudan and Angola so far.
After determining that the migrants were positive for the mosquitoes-born haemorrhagic fever, the country’s public health service, or PVSC, said on Thursday it had advised Muslims and people from northern Africa living in those countries to consider avoiding bites and for vulnerable people to seek medical attention as soon as they develop symptoms.
After a rise in recent weeks, it also advised citizens to wear socks and long trousers if they travelled to areas with heavy amounts of green plants, which are known to attract mosquitoes.
It said it had worked with other health agencies around the world to search for the answer to the genetic mutation that has made CoVD-19 increasingly virulent to humans.
The PVSC health agency has now linked at least two dozen people in the Netherlands to the latest versions of the deadly virus. Of these, 20 had not sought treatment for symptoms of CoVD-19 after being sick, and seven had visited CoVD-19-affected countries.
Of the seven, three had returned from Tanzania, four from Uganda and one from Rwanda. One had travelled from Somalia, which has the world’s largest CoVD-19 outbreak, where more than 100 people have been killed since August.
Hundreds more people have also fallen ill with CoVD-19, many suffering haemorrhagic fever. By late October, the toll is expected to be in the hundreds in South Africa, another nation with unusually high numbers of cases.
In Belgium, in contrast, “foreigners coming from the three African countries are not a risk”, spokesman for the public health service, Flemish Dr Martijn Goënders, told AFP, adding that so far his agency had counted no cases of the virus in Belgium.
The virus is extremely rare, but has been lurking undetected for decades.
It has been replicating rapidly because it has been feeding on the same mosquito carrying dengue virus, which causes fever, joint and muscle pain, and other symptoms. Although dengue is more frequent than CoVD-19, it is barely even mentioned by the World Health Organisation.
The struggle to contain the disease is costing health professionals millions of euros, and was the cause of the most expensive health crises in the second half of the 20th century.
In 2015, when a widespread dengue outbreak was blamed for a huge spike in people dying from malaria and typhoid, it led to the creation of a “Global Task Force on Malaria”, co-chaired by Britain’s new health secretary, Matt Hancock.
The group, which aims to focus global attention on malaria and develop better prevention measures, is chaired by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
During a trip to Malawi on Thursday, Hunt said the global health community needed to re-imagine how to combat malaria and said world leaders should be “held to account” for any failure.