The number of deaths related to the influenza A(H1N1) virus in Costa Rica rose to four this week, after the passing Sunday of a 40-year-old woman from San José, health officials said.
The death of the woman, who also suffered from asthma and depression, followed a fatality last Monday of a 55-year-old man, who also had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was a 42-year smoker.
Although news of the flu outbreak gradually has been relegated to the back pages of newspapers or slipped completely off the scripts of newscasters, the number of cases is steadily growing.
Whereas on June 26, health officials in Costa Rica were reporting just 210 cases, the most recent reports register more than 277 cases spread over six provinces.
Asked whether the situation has gotten more serious here, Health Minister María Luis Avila responded that it has not.
“It has been about the same,” she told The Tico Times late Monday afternoon. “But Costa Rica is becoming more successful at tracking down the cases. We are finding it in people with other sicknesses and that’s why you see the number of cases growing.”
The A(H1N1) flu virus was a factor in the deaths of a 53-year-old musician from Heredia in May and a 35-year-old woman from San José on June 23.
On Thursday, a 29-year old woman from San José passed away from pneumonia- like symptoms. An autopsy is being performed to determine if the A(H1N1) virus was a factor in her death.
Costa Rica currently is reporting the highest number of flu-related deaths in Central America. Honduras has reported one such death and Guatemala has reported two.
A recent World Health Organization conference in Cancún, Mexico, raised more questions than it answered, said Avila. But it was an opportunity to compare notes on how countries were preventing simple cases from getting much worse, she said.
Costa Rican newspapers also are reporting that three pregnant women are interned with the virus at San José’s San Juan de Dios Hospital. One of the women – a 26-year-old – is in delicate condition and receiving oxygen via machine. According to health officials, she is 20 weeks pregnant and also suffering from pneumonia.