San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Experts in immunology and vaccination arrive in Costa Rica during height of H1N1

More than 150 doctors and health experts descended on Costa Rica this week to discuss the challenges medical personnel face when providing immunizations in the region.

The 18th conference organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) comes in the embrace of the H1N1 pandemic; the largest influenza outbreak in the Americas since the Hong Kong Flu of 1968.

The H1N1 virus will certainly be a theme of the three-day event, which began Monday, said event organizers. But it´s also a time to share immunization successes and challenges in the hopes “that international dialogue will strengthen national health,” said Socorro Gross-Galiano, assistant director of PAHO.

The swine flu has thus far claimed 33 lives in Costa Rica, and infected more than 1,000 people, including Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. As the flu continues to approach its peak in the country, the Arias administration has invested an additional $1.7 million for a “roaming team” of medical professionals, who will travel to vulnerable areas to assist in prevention activities.

To date, there is no vaccine for the swine flu and health officials have been using immunizations against the seasonal flu to protect vulnerable populations. They expect to develop an H1N1 virus-specific vaccine in September, according to PAHO.

In welcoming the 150 medical experts to Costa Rica on Monday at the National Theater, Arias thanked them for their efforts in immunization and made a specific mention of PAHO, which he said has ensured that “ America is better today than yesterday and worse than tomorrow.”

The Regional and Urban Planning for the Greater Metropolitan Area (PRUGAM) and the Housing Ministry (MIVAH) inaugurated a new park on Tuesday morning that is to serve an example for sustainable urban development.

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