Health Minister Says Dengue Unstoppable

March 5, 2004

Costa Ricans will have to get used to living with dengue, Health Minister Rocío Sáenz said on Wednesday.

“After more than 10 years, the possibility of eradication is more and more remote,” Sáenz told La Nación. The announcement was the first time the admission was made publicly since the mosquito-transmitted virus reappeared in the country in 1993.

“This (admission) has practical applications because it forces us to contain this disease with different weapons,” Sáenz said.

Dengue is carried by the mosquito Aedes aegypti and comes in various strains. The symptoms are generally fever and bodily pain.

Vice-Minister of Health Eduardo López said that as of Feb. 29 there were 1,077 cases of dengue reported in the country. Of those, four were the hemorrhagic type – a strain of the disease that can cause death by the loss of bodily fluids if not treated in time.

The discovery of those hemorrhagic cases and a 50% increase in the number of infected people compared to this time last year has health officials concerned, La Nación reported.

In response, the Social Security System (Caja) will redouble efforts to destroy the small pools of water in which mosquitoes lay their eggs. Along with private businesses and municipalities, it plans a campaign to collect old tires and containers where water can gather and to distribute information about preventing the disease.

The ministry is now mapping the places in the country that present the greatest risk of dengue to focus its efforts on them.

The Ministry’s office of Health Vigilance reports that Limón, on the Caribbean coast, is the area with the highest number of dengue cases. In the first two months of this year 278 cases were documented in that region.

The city with the second highest number of cases this year is Matina, also on the Caribbean slope, with 88. Liberia in Guanacaste takes third place with 79 cases and Alajuela, northwest of San José, takes fourth with 61 cases. Those last two cities are the only two in the country that have major international airports.

The Caja has recommended that people in Limón wear strips of cloth sprayed with insect repellent around their wrists and ankles, especially in the most impoverished neighborhoods, La Nación reported.

 

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