San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Palmares Celebration May Become Victim of Flu Virus

Costa Rica’s famous festivals in 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 making no promises about the future of the crowded festivities in Palmares.

In July, health officials cancelled the annual march to Cartago, stressing concerns that it might be a feeding ground for the flu pandemic. And the annual open-air,late-January party of concerts and amusement rides that draws thousands  to Palmares, a coffee town in the Alajuela province northwest of 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 had died from complications of the H1N1 flu.

The deaths of a 30-year-old and a  51-year-old, both from Nicaragua, sent thedeath toll from H1N1 in Costa Rica 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 significantincrease in cases.

“The two women who passed away did so because they sought medical help too late. They both had advanced cases, and died shortly after they arrived (at the hospital).

There wasn’t much we could do.”

Morice said a preliminary shipment of vaccines should arrive in Costa Rica in mid-December. Authorities will first 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.

–Chrissie Long

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