Testing reveals 11 more H1N1 cases in Costa Rica

May 15, 2009

The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Costa Rica surged to 20 Tuesday, following a series of laboratory tests with newly arrived kits.

“These are old cases that have finally been confirmed,” said Ana Morice, vice minister of health, in an interview with The Tico Times. “It´s the same ones we had listed as probable, but now they have been tested in laboratories.”

Since the first cases began appearing in Costa Rica in late April, health officials have been unable to confirm the existence of the H1N1 virus without sending samples to laboratories in the United States.

Through testing here, they established 13 likely cases and 126 suspected cases. Eight cases were returned from a laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia with positive results. One was confirmed in laboratories here.

The testing kits arrived in Costa Rica last week and, as soon as they were pulled out of boxes and assembled, health officials were able to confirm eleven more cases.

Several individuals who had contact with a singing group from Boston are among the newly-confirmed carriers as well as a handful of people connected to the 53-year-old Heredia man who died May 9.

The World Health Organization, which issued an alert in late April warning countries that a “pandemic is imminent,” is reporting 10,423 cases worldwide and 80 deaths.

To continue testing, Costa Rica received a $200,000 grant from the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS) for the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (INCIENSA) foundation, which will go to the purchase of testing equipment such as refrigerators and a bio-security chamber.

“With this new equipment…the country will be able to continue responding and monitoring the virus in the next few weeks,” Elizabeth Sáenz, coordinator of the National Center of Virology said in a statement. “With this donation…we will be able to gradually process 2,000 samples.”

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