San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Health Ministry downplays effects of flu epidemic in the U.S.

Costa Rican Health Ministry officials ruled out the possibility that a flu outbreak in the United States could cause problems in Costa Rica, saying the country is prepared for the seasonal virus.

A public health emergency was issued in the U.S. cities of New York and Boston in recent weeks, as more than 19,000 flu cases were registered, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 children so far.

The ministry in December started a vaccination campaign against influenza, targeting high-risk people, including the elderly, people with chronic diseases and children.

Health Vice Minister Adolfo Ortiz said that although there is an increase in severe cases, “there is a normal behavior of the disease. All severe cases were submitted for laboratory analysis and are being monitored,” he said in a release.

In 2012, 10 people were killed by respiratory viruses in Costa Rica, most of them by influenza and the H3N2 virus.

The Social Security System, or Caja, in December distribuited 378,200 doses of the vaccine at a cost of $1.3 million. The vaccines are being applied for free at Caja medical centers as part as the National Vaccination Program that runs for three months until February.

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