Flu Cases Scarce But Officials Still Wary

February 26, 2010

Costa Rica is not over its flu scare yet, despite news reports that the second wave of the H1N1 virus seems to have passed it by.

“If we maintain the level of flu cases we have now, we would be avoiding a second round,” said Anna Morice, vice minister of health. “But, to be safe, we have to wait some more time and, obviously, continue with the same measures we’ve been implementing.”

Morice said 25 to 30 new cases of the flu are reported every week in Costa Rica.

In the first six months of the flu outbreak, Costa Rica experienced 1,847 cases and 50 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

The number of cases peaked in August and forced the cancellation of the country’s most important religious event, the pilgrimage to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora in Cartago to honor the country’s patron saint La Virgen de Los Angeles. It also threatened to shut down the popular annual Palmares festival in January in the event of a second wave.

Medical experts expected a resurgence of the flu in January or February, as the virus found new ways around medications or natural immune system defenses. But as March approaches, the number of cases continues to remain low.

Morice said it would be necessary to wait until June to declare the end of an H1N1 flu virus threat in Costa Rica, as soon as the Southern Hemisphere enters into its winter season.

“That will be an important moment to indicate we’ve passed over this challenge,” she said.

–Chrissie Long

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