San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Number of flu deaths in Costa Rica this year reaches 9

The number of deaths from the flu this season is at nine after a 26-year-old woman died last week, according to the Health Ministry. The ministry is stressing that Costa Rica residents, especially senior citizens, receive immunizations from the flu. A vaccination can be received at private or public hospitals, clinics and pharmacies and costs around $12.

Flu season started in mid-summer and continues through the end of the rainy season in late November. Five people over the age of 50 have died as a result of the flu. The youngest death, a 14-year-old girl, occurred in August.

The Health Ministry has confirmed 168 flu cases in the country this year (between three different strains: H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza Type B).

Patients should be vaccinated every year for the disease.

“The virus mutates so quickly that after a year protection is lost; hence the recommendation for an annual dose against this virus,” said Fernando Coto, a doctor and president of the Geriatric Society, in a message from the ministry.

Respiratory diseases in general flare up during this time of the of year.

In 2011, the Social Security System reported 416 respiratory deaths including 176 relating to the flu or pneumonia (often a complication from the flu).

The World Health Organization recommends immunization for those who are most vulnerable to complications from the flu, National Children’s Hospital doctor José Hurtado said.

Hurtado said children 6 months to 3 years old should get vaccinated, as well as parents, caretakers and adults over 65. People with chronic diseases such as immune disorders, asthma and heart problems should also use the flu vaccine.

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