Virus Reaches Its Peak, Closes Schools Across Country

July 17, 2009

School children are getting a few more days of vacation this year as health officials look for ways to stave off the spread of the flu virus that’s so far claimed the lives of nine people.

“We are at the highest point of the wave of the pandemic,” said Health Minister María Avila. “We expect to see the number of cases surge…For this reason, we are looking for ways to protect our school-age population.

According to Avila, asthma represents a significant risk factor and approximately 32 percent of children suffer from it.

While education officials have undertaken measures to educate young children about proper hand washing and sneezing techniques, they are hoping the delay in opening schools will give the virus some time to die down. Schools are expected to reopen on July 27.

“The individual action that each one of us assumes is important,” said Alejandrina Mata, vice minister of education, but added that the actions of parents are especially important for the example they provide.

Since the outbreak of the flu virus three months ago, medical personnel have examined 3,903 cases and discarded 3,077. Costa Rica has identified more than 351 cases, and is currently in fourth place among its Central American neighbors in the number of reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.

In the last week, five more people in Costa Rica carrying the flu virus died, including a 25-year-old woman, five months pregnant with twins, who died on Saturday. A 24-year-old smoker passed away that same day. On Sunday, a 44-year-old man, who suffered from a bacterial infection, died. And, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a 20-year-old with several lung conditions died with the flu strain in youyou you his blood stream.

“In most of the fatal cases, other risk factors have accompanied the presence of the flu virus,” Avila said. “If someone is at high risk or in fragile health (a smoker, an obese person or someone with a weakened immune system), we recommend they stay away from places where there are a lot of people.”

Health authorities said these deaths should act as warning signs to people to continue to implement preventive measures and not let down their guard.

For those who suspect they have one or more of the symptoms (body aches, fever, cough, runny nose), health officials advise them to avoid public places and to stem the spread of a suspected virus in the home by adopting sanitary measures.

–Chrissie Long

 

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