An uptick in the number of fatal cases of H1N1 in Costa Rica has led the Costa Rican Doctors and Surgeons Association to recommend Ticos with the flu sit out the romería to Cartago this week in honor of the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of the Angels.
Dr. Marino Ramírez, president of the medical association, said that it’s important that people participate “responsibly” in the pilgrimage to see “La Negrita” by taking care of their health and that of others. “If they have the flu or show any symptoms, it’s better that they not participate,” said Ramírez, according to a press release from the association.
So far this year there have been nine fatal cases of H1N1 and over 120 additional cases, according to the Health Ministry. There has been one death so far attributed to H3N2.
María Ethel Trejos of the Health Ministry’s Health Monitoring unit said that the concentration of the deaths – roughly half taking place during the last month – has captured the media’s attention but is not yet considered out of the ordinary compared to past years.
The cool, wet conditions during the rainy season contribute to the spread of all kinds of respiratory diseases.
“People think of H1N1 because of the outbreak [several years ago], but more people died last year from H3N2,” another respiratory virus, Trejos told The Tico Times. “H1N1 is now a seasonal flu in Costa Rica,” she added.
In 2009, the Church suspended the pilgrimage to the Basílica Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in response to the H1N1 outbreak in hopes of limiting the number of infections attributed to the romería, according to the daily La Nación.
There are no announcements of similar measures this year.
Trejos agreed with the recommendations from the Doctors and Surgeons Association and added that people should wash their hands, cough or sneeze into their elbow, and avoid areas with poor ventilation. Vulnerable populations, like young children, pregnant women and the elderly, should also avoid visiting the sick.
She also recommended people get a flu shot.