San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

H1N1 Scare Prompts Call for Vaccinations

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 – that have the risk factors like 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 with a specific focus on schools. Reports indicate that close to 30,000 vaccines are currently available to fight the virus, that has affected more than 1,500 people and killed several dozen. Wasserman said flu cases typically rise during the rainy season.

–Matt Levin

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