Not chikungunya, say Costa Rica health officials

June 9, 2014

Two patients were discharged this week from local hospitals after the Health Ministry said lab tests for the chikungunya virus were negative. 

The first patient, a 3-year-old boy, was admitted last Tuesday to Ciudad Neily Hospital in the southern Pacific region. Roberto Castro, director of the Health Ministry’s monitoring unit, said blood samples from the child tested negative for the virus.

Parents of the child, from the Dominican Republic and Panama, had visited the Caribbean island nation last May. The Dominican Republic is among countries with the most reported cases of chikungunya in the region, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Tests from a second patient, a 60-year-old Costa Rican man, also were negative. He was admitted at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in the capital last Thursday.

Blood sample analysis was conducted at the Gorgas Institute for Health Studies in Panama. But Castro said that as of last Friday, the Health Ministry now has the capability to conduct lab testing for chikungunya in Costa Rica.  Tests take up to 72 hours for results, he said.

Chikungunya causes similar symptoms to the dengue virus, including high fever, rashes and severe joint pain. It is transmitted by two mosquitoes: the Aedes aegypti – which also carries dengue – and Aedes albopictus. Both types are found in Costa Rica.

Chikungunya symptoms, however, last longer than dengue symptoms, and the virus causes chronic arthritis in 5 percent of patients.

Castro said that as of Monday, no other suspected cases of the virus exist here, but health officials will remain alert because chikungunya has been found in Panama.

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