San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Schools and Communities Go on Dengue Offensive

The latest effort to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, and thus prevent the spread of dengue, has been under way since last Friday, June 25, according to the Health Ministry. Health officials are teaming up with the Education Ministry and the Social Security System (Caja) to make educational and health centers throughout Costa Rica safe from the risk of dengue.

With support from the Pan American Health Organization, a month-long social mobilization called “Dengue-Free Costa Rica” will encourage public and private efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.

Health Minister María Luisa Avila said in a ministry statement that the effort aims to identify and eliminate areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the virus, can reproduce, such as standing water and receptacles where water can collect.

Education Minister Leonardo Garnier added that this week’s homework assignment for public school children is to carry out similar cleanup activities within their homes in order to disrupt the mosquito’s reproductive cycle.

Costa Rican authorities have recently reported a significant increase in dengue cases. So far this year, 8,307 dengue cases have been confirmed, a 452 percent increase over the same period last year.

Since the disease took hold in 1993, 18 cases of hemorrhagic dengue deaths have been confirmed in the country and one suspected dengue death this year is awaiting confirmation, said José Luis Garcés, at the Health Ministry’s Surveillance Unit, in a phone interview.

Avila warned that the chances of hemorrhagic dengue, which can lead to death, are higher now that three of the four types of dengue are present in the country. Hemorrhagic dengue, which causes internal bleeding and requires immediate hospitalization, results from a re-infection with a different strain of dengue than that of a person’s first infection.

Areas in Costa Rica with the highest dengue rates are Corredores and Buenos Aires in the Southern Zone; Carrillo, Abangares, Nandayure, Santa Cruz and Cañas in the northwestern province of Guanacaste; Aguirre in the Central Pacific region; Atenas, Alajuela Central and San Sebastián in the Central Valley; and Pococí in the Caribbean lowlands.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Monday, June 28 on a late-May advisory issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that declared, “For the first time in more than 65 years, dengue has returned to the continental United States.” The article went on to say, “Since August 2009, U.S. doctors have diagnosed 28 people with dengue, according to the CDC. They had all caught it in Florida.”

–Sophia Klempner

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