San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Malaria and Dengue Fever Break Out in Costa Rica

Health officials have recorded several malaria and dengue fever outbreaks over the past several weeks.

The Health Ministry is battling the viruses – dengue in San Carlos on the border with Nicaragua and malaria in Corredores on the Panama border – with house-to-house visits and fumigations of homes and lakes.

Fernández said authorities were surprised by how quickly the outbreak has spread.

The dengue outbreak has reached 247 potential cases, 63 of which have been verified by blood tests, said Health Ministry epidemiologist Jorge Araya. The Social Security System (the Caja) has announced the creation of a four-member emergency team to try to stop the spread of this virus.

“We have this outbreak traced to one person from Limón,” Araya said. “We’re trying to stop the spread, but it surprises me how we haven’t got it stabilized yet.

Normally, dengue outbreaks stabilize within a week or so.”

On the Panama border, the malaria problem is also vexing authorities. The Health Ministry said 216 cases of malaria have been reported so far this year, 102 of them on the Caribbean side of the country.

“We had 23 malaria cases in June alone (in Corredores),” said epidemiologist Rodrigo Fernández, a doctor with the Health Ministry. “It grew rapidly from a few cases on the Panamanian side of the border the month before. We’re trying to put the brakes on it.”

Both dengue and malaria are carried by mosquitoes and become more problematic after heavy rains because the insects have more breeding grounds.

The symptoms of malaria are fever, chills, heavy sweating and headaches.

Treatment includes the drugs chloro quine and primaquine.

The symptoms of dengue fever include high fever, vomiting, chronic weakness, rashes, and muscle, joint and head pain.

There is no treatment for dengue aside from rest and drinking lots of fluids.

Authorities are asking people to take measures to stanch the spread of the diseases: use mosquito repellant; keep your areas clean; cover containers; and empty containers that have filled with water.

–Nick Wilkinson


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