New H1N1 flu cases have been reported in several areas of Costa Rica, according to the Health Ministry and the Social Security System (Caja). These organizations are now scrambling to get vaccines to prevent the disease from spreading further.
Henry Wasserman, a preventive medicine specialist with the Health Ministry, said the outbreak has not spread to the entire country, but “it´s been particularly bad” in certain areas.
“People who are at risk –who have the risk factors, including asthmatics, those who are obese, women in their last trimester of pregnancy, people who smoke or are diabetic – should be vaccinated,” Wasserman said.
An outbreak of the disease first occurred in August of last year.
He confirmed there have been four deaths in the northern San Carlos region, which includes towns from Los Chiles, near the Nicaraguan border, to Ciudad Quesada, further south. There have also been reports of the disease in Heredia, Cartago, Puntarenas, and the eastern San José district of Pavas.
The Caja stepped up its vaccinations against the disease Wednesday.
Rosa Climent, head of the Caja, said in a release there’s an effort to vaccinate those at high-risk living in the country’s high-risk zones (see box), with a specific focus on schools. Reports indicate that close to 30,000 vaccines are currently available to fight the virus, which has affected more than 1,500 people and killed several dozen. Wasserman said flu cases typically rise during the rainy season.
H1N1 RISK AREAS
High risk areas for H1N1:Horquetas de Sarapiquí, Poás, Cartago, Acosta, Goicoechea, Paraíso, Aserrí, San Antonio de Desamparados, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, Guatuso, Turrialba, Los Chiles, Santa Rosa de Aguas Zarcas, Altos del Pacífico, Aguirre, Garabito, Esparza, Limón, Abangares and Nandayure.
Symptoms of the disease: difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion or disorientation, hyperventilation.
Source: Costa Rican Social Security System