Doctors at the National Children’s Hospital (HNN) in San José issued a call this week for parents and caregivers to take preventive action to help reduce the spread of respiratory diseases.
The start of the rainy season, which in Costa Rica runs from May to November, usually coincides with an increase in these types of illneses in most of the country, and children aged 6 months to 2 years are the most vulnerable.
Carlos Jiménez Herrera, HNN’s outpatient service director, said that cases of respiratory virus-related illness usually increase during the month of May, hitting a peak in August and October.
Jiménez said that the respiratory syncytial virus was the cause of 90 percent of hospital occupancy in 2013 and produced some of the highest numbers of patients treated in the hospital’s history.
Rainy season also increases cases of other respiratory viruses, such as influenza, parainfluenza, metapneumovirus, rhinovirus, and adenovirus. All have similar symptoms including high fever, headaches, sore throat, muscle and joints aches.
Transmission of respiratory viruses occurs during an incubation period of 1-4 days. People showing any of these symptoms should stay home to prevent infecting others.
The influenza virus was responsible for one percent of all school and work absences in 2013, the Social Security System reported earlier this year.
“The only way to prevent transmission is to wash hands as frequently as possible. We are asking people to cover their mouths when sneezing and coughing, to properly wash silverware and dishes, to keep hydrated, and to not smoke inside their homes,” Jiménez added.
Dengue virus also is a concern for health officials, as in 2013, some 50,000 people were infected with the mosquito-transmitted disease, according to the Health Ministry.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the dengue virus, breeds in stagnant water. Health officials asked citizens to be weary of household items that collect stagnant water.