San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Palmares celebration could fall victim to flu virus

Costa Rica´s famous festivals of Palmares hinge this year on the possible resurgence of the H1N1 flu virus.

Expecting a second wave to surface in Costa Rica in January or February, health officials are not making any promises about the crowded festivities of Palmares.

Already they cancelled the annual march to Cartago in July, concerned that it would be a feeding ground for the worldwide pandemic. And the open-air, late-January party of concerts and amusement rides that draws thousands to Palmares, a coffee town in the Alajuela province about a 45-minutes´ drive northwest from San José, may be no exception.

The flu virus has remained relatively dormant since the first wave in August, but the country was awakened last week with the news that two more people died.

A 30-year-old and 51-year-old, both natives of Nicaragua, died of complications resulting from the flu virus, bringing the death toll in Costa Rica up to 40.

“This was not the second wave,” Deputy Health Minister Ana Morice told The Tico Times. “The virus still exists here, but there hasn´t been a significant increase in cases.

“The two women who past away did so because they consulted medical help too late,” she continued. “They both had advanced cases, and thus died shortly after they arrived. There wasn´t much we could do.”

Morice expects a preliminary shipment of vaccines to arrive in Costa Rica in mid-December. First, authorities will distribute the medication to health workers and emergency personnel, and later to the public, beginning with people who exhibit high risk factors such as asthma, obesity and lung complications.

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