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Dengue Fever a Real Problem in Costa Rica

July 25th, 2007

For many years now, Dengue Fever has been a fact of life in Costa Rica, however this year, it has reached the point where it is causing serious issues not only within the country but to tourism as well. Areas such as Playas del Coco have been especially hard hit as has Limón on the Caribbean coast (see below). The bulk of the cases, some 66 percent, are in what is known as the Chorotega in northwest Costa Rica (34 percent) and along the Caribbean (some 32 percent). Only about 12 percent of the cases are on the Pacific side, the side most popular with tourists.

The incidence of dengue this year has more than doubled from 2006, according to the latest statistics from the Ministerio de Salud. So far this year the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) and the ministry of Health have spent ¢1.5 billion colones (us$2.9 million dollars) attending patients and fumigating. Throughout the country more than 8,000 persons are ill. During the first 25 weeks of 2007, health officials said Friday that they logged 6,882 cases and two dengue-attributed deaths. During the same period in 2006, there were only 3,435 cases.

In Playas del Coco for example, it has been reported that the dengue virus has also affected the number of police available for service. The local Fuerza Pública captain, Johnny Fernández and two other officers were out for eight days. I am not sure how many staff that post, but I am betting this is about 80% of the entire police department. Local doctor Dr. Álvaro Ampié told the La Nación that he starts to see dengue patients from opening the doors at 7:00 AM and recently attended to 14 dengue patients by 2:30pm.

On the Caribbean side, the very popular Carnavale de Limón, held annually first week in October, is in danger of being canceled.

Health minister, María Luisa Ávila Agüero has stated that the popular carnival may be canceled if the number of cases of Dengue does not decrease within 2-3 weeks. She wants to see a 20% decrease in the number of new cases. The health ministry has a reported 3.413 cases of classic dengue and 40 cases of the far more dangerous hemorrhagic variety.

What is odd to me is that a BIG part of the problem is local hostility to those health workers who are spraying for mosquitoes in Limón centro. They have had numerous conflicts with local residents. I have NO idea what that is about, bit it seems like a pretty dumb idea to fight those charged with saving your bacon.

The Dengue mosquito only bites during fdaylight hours and use of repellent is very effective in reducing exposure.

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