San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Malaria and dengue fever numbers drop significantly in Costa Rica

Malaria and dengue fever cases registered in the beginning of this year were significantly fewer than those registered during the same time period in 2008, the Health Ministry announced Tuesday.

Through May 3 of this year, the number of registered cases of malaria dropped 65 percent when compared with the same time period in 2008, the ministry said. Dengue numbers dropped nearly as drastically, seeing a 46 percent reduction.

Heightened preventive measures in the more at-risk regions of the country were described by the ministry as the reason for the halving of cases in only a year. Actions taken have included informative campaigns in affected regions to increase awareness on how best to combat the diseases.

The country is now seeing the benefits of the increased education in the countryside, and especially among rural farmers and banana workers, the ministry said.

The most affected areas for malaria were in the region around Limón, where 58 of the 78 malaria cases were registered. More than half of the 1,103 cases of dengue fever, on the other hand, were reported in the Central Pacific region, the ministry found.

Both diseases are spread by mosquitoes, although while malaria tends to be focused in rural regions, dengue fever is just as prominent in urban centers as in the countryside. The use of mosquito nets is seen as a key way of preventing the spread of the disease.

Dengue fever results in a severe headache, muscle and joint pains, fever and a bright red rash. It usually lasts about a week, though some rare complications result in death.

Malaria is characterized by fever, chills and nausea, and can result in a coma and death.

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