Friday, May 29, 2009

Celebrities arrive to Costa Rica for NBC reality show

In this image released by NBC on Friday, May 29, 2009 and taken on May 27, celebrities, from left, John Salley, background, Janice Dickinson, Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag leave the airport after arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica for the NBC reality show, 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,' which premieres Monday, June 1.(AP Photo/NBC, Tyler Golden)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

International Day of Action for Women's Health

Olga Barrantes (L), who had a mastectomy to remove a tumor, left, hugs a fellow breast cancer survivor at the FUNDESO hostel in San Jose, Tuesday, May 28, 2009. As the world observes International Day of Action for Women's Health, Barrantes, like millions of breast cancer survivors around the world, continues her fight against the illness.
(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dengue fever and malaria cases drop in Costa Rica

(Inside costa Rica) - Health authorities in Costa Rica report that in the first four months of this year, dengue cases have dropped by 46.7 % and malaria cases by 65.3%, in comparison to this same period in 2008. Until now, 1,103 dengue cases have been reported, in comparison with the 2,070 of 2008.

The majority of the 2009 cases were discovered in the hot pockets along the coastline, such as the Central Pacific (668), the Caribbean (161), and the Province of Guanacaste, in the northern Pacific (99). There have been reports of seven cases of hemorrhagic dengue, however no deaths thus far.

Dengue is a disease that is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which causes a high fever and muscle pains, while the hemorrhagic version also involves an endless loss of blood that can easily lead to death.

As for the malaria, while 225 cases were registered in the first four months of 2008, only 78 were registered during the same time in 2009, the majority in the area of the Caribbean.

Malaria is an infective disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It brings intense sweats, rapid increase in body temperature, headaches, and vomiting.

Health officials have assured that they will reinforce controls and disinfection throughout the country, in order to eventually destroy the eggs of the mosquitoes that spread dengue and malaria.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Patti Blagojevich heads to Costa Rica for TV show

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, file)Springfield, Ill. – The wife of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is headed to the Costa Rican jungle to compete on a TV reality show that he was barred from going on.

Her spokesman, Glenn Selig, said Wednesday that Patti Blagojevich is "on her way" to Costa Rica for her spot on NBC's "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here."

Selig says it'll be challenging for the "big city girl."

A federal judge barred her husband from going because it would send him out of the country. Rod Blagojevich faces federal corruption charges.

Patti Blagojevich has said she's participating because of her family's financial situation. Both she and her husband are unemployed.

The show airs on June 1. Other contestants include actor Stephen Baldwin and former "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Costa Rica confirmed AH1N1 flu cases climb to 28

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)(Inside Costa Rica) - The number of confirmed cases of AH1N1 flu cases in Costa Rica continues to rise, as three new cases were added on Friday, bringing the total now to 28.

The latest infected include two children in Heredia and a woman resident of San Jose. Health officials say they are tracking the chain of transmission of infection.

The majority of the confirmed cases are in the province of San Jose, with 14. Coronado and Moravia have each six cases, one each in Goicoechea and Desamparados. One case in Pavas is listed as probable.

In the province of Heredia, there are nine confirmed cases and Health officials are keeping an eye on two probable cases, one living in Santo Domingo and the other in San Isidro.

The province of Cartago counts with five cases, two women and three men in the area of Oreamuno.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Panamanian president visits Costa Rica

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, and Panama's President-elect Ricardo Martinelli attend a press conference at the presidential house in San Jose, Friday, May 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Six more cases of AH1N1 confirmed: total now at 26

(Inside Costa Rica) - The minister of health, Maria Luisa Avila, confirmed on Thursday six more cases of H1N1 flu in Costa Rica, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 26 since the outbreak on April 24.

Avila said that this six patients were not among the pervious reports of "probable" cases of the H1N1 flu due to the detection limitations. However, she said that now the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (Inciensa) has more capacity to analyze the samples.

"From these six new cases, four were from the transmission chain of a girl in Heredia, who infected her three brothers and the doctor who assisted her," Avila said.

The other two cases were in San Jose and the transmission chain is still being investigated.

To the moment have health authorities have determined 1,080 possible cases, from them 925 were discarded and 127 are waiting for the lab tests results.

Also there are other two pending cases, which were negative, but the results are doubtable and samples have been sent to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

Costa Rica was the fourth country in the world on reporting a death due to the H1N1 flu, after the cases reported in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Testing reveals 11 more H1N1 cases in Costa Rica

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Costa Rica surged to 20 Tuesday, following a series of laboratory tests with newly arrived kits.

"These are old cases that have finally been confirmed," said Ana Morice, vice minister of health, in an interview with The Tico Times. "It's the same ones we had listed as probable, but now they have been tested in laboratories."

Since the first cases began appearing in Costa Rica in late April, health officials have been unable to confirm the existence of the H1N1 virus without sending samples to laboratories in the United States.

Through testing here, they established 13 likely cases and 126 suspected cases. Eight cases were returned from a laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia with positive results. One was confirmed in laboratories here.

The testing kits arrived in Costa Rica last week and, as soon as they were pulled out of boxes and assembled, health officials were able to confirm eleven more cases.

Several individuals who had contact with a singing group from Boston are among the newly-confirmed carriers as well as a handful of people connected to the 53-year-old Heredia man who died May 9.

To continue testing, Costa Rica received a $200,000 grant from the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS) for the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (INCIENSA) foundation, which will go to the purchase of testing equipment such as refrigerators and a bio-security chamber.

"With this new equipment...the country will be able to continue responding and monitoring the virus in the next few weeks,” Elizabeth Saenz, coordinator of the National Center of Virology said in a statement. “With this donation…we will be able to gradually process 2,000 samples."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Influenza infection now between Ticos

(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)(Inside Costa Rica) - A Cartago man and a 13 year old girl from Heredia are the first human-to-human transfer of the AH1N1 flu in Costa Rica, said yesterday the Health Minister, Maria Luisa Avila.

Avila explained that virus cases originated by infection between Costa Ricans are already circulating in the country.

The earlier cases of the flu were all related, directly or indirectly, to contact with persons travelling from Mexico.

The minister said that the man infected four others in his own family, while the Heredia girl was isolated when she began to show symptoms, but in any event infected another minor.

Avila added that they are attempting to determine if a Guadalupe woman had come into contact with the Boston chorus who were in Costa Rica last month.

Since April 24, Costa Rican health officials have investigated 941 suspected cases, of which nine were confirmed, 13 are still on the "probables" list, while the rest were discarded.

Health official records indicate that in 700 of the cases the results were negative, 76 had the regular flu, 28 did not meet the definition of a suspected case, one person dying.

Coronado Manuel Arevalo is the first and only recorded death from the AH1N1 flu. The 53 year old man had been hospitalized due to his pneumonia and diabetes,

Symptoms of the flu include a temperature of 38 Celsius, body and joing aches, runny nose, headache and cough.

Health authorities insist on hygiene measures, such as hand washing and sneezing protocol.

"One of the important points is that the human influenza virus has, so far, a low mortality," said ministra Avila.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vandenberg medical team to go to Costa Rica

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs)By Ben Preston
Santa Barbara Independent

A medical team from Vandenberg Air Force Base arrived in Costa Rica today, part of a medically-oriented humanitarian aid mission in the small Latin American country.

Along with three specialists from other Air Force units, medical personnel from Vandenberg’s 30th Medical Group will visit areas that do not currently have medical facilities.

Working alongside Costa Rican medical professionals, the goal is to treat more that 4,000 patients while at the same time projecting a positive image of the United States and its military forces. The team will return to California in approximately two weeks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Costa Rica is in recession, Government and Central Bank recognize

Francisco de Paula Gutierrez(Photo:by Al Dia Newspaper)(Inside Costa Rica) - Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, and the president of the Central Bank, Francisco de Paula Gutierrez, recognized yesterday that the country is in a recession.

Both, separately, confirmed the recession after two consecutive trimesters of negative economic growth. Gutierrez added that the Gross National Production may even be lower than then 2.2% forecast by the central bank at the beginning of the year.

"If there are drecreases in two consecutive trimesters, then, we are in a recession, but we should not be surprised. I always maintained that growth in 2009 could possibly be zero or even be negative", said Arias.

The president explained that the contraction in the economy has been in employment and could soon affect family income an poverty.

A number of Costa Rican economists agree with the statments of Arias and Gutierrez, adding the importance of defining the state of the economy for the country to face the reality and take measures against the situation.

Costa Rica's last recession was between 2000 and 2001. However, economists believe that this recession may be the worst faced by the country since 1982.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Costa Rica holds at eight confirmed cases of Swine Flu

A doctor, wearing protective clothing and mask as a precaution against swine flu, stands outside an trauma area set up to treat cases of suspected swine flu at a hospital in San Jose, Monday, May 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)(Inside Costa Rica) - Although the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the number of infections of the AH1N1 flu has risen in several countries, including Spain, Britain, Panama, Guatemala and Colombia, the number of confirmed cases in Costa Rica has held at 8.

Costa Rican health officials say that since the outbreak on April 24 there have been more than 800 reports of suspected cases, of which the majority have been discarded. Last Saturday, Costa Rica reported the first death resulting from the flu, after a 53 year old infected man could not fight off complications from pneumonia and diabetes.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has raised the flu alert level to 5 out of 6 as a result of its spread beyond the disease epicenter Mexico, signaling that a pandemic is imminent.

She is looking for evidence the hybrid strain is spreading in sustained way in communities outside of the Americas before raising that alert to 6 and declaring a pandemic is under way.

According to the latest WHO count, Spain has 98 confirmed cases and Britain has 68.

While most of those infections have been deemed "imported" cases as a result of people traveling to Mexico, or being in close contact with those who had, WHO experts are watching both countries closely for signs the virus has taken hold in Europe.

North America continues to have the largest number of confirmed H1N1 infections worldwide. Mexico has 2,059 cases confirmed in WHO labs, the United States has 3,009 and Canada has 358.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Same-sex union advocate slams Costa Rica church for stoking opposition

(EFE) - Costa Rican gay rights activists have decried what they call the Roman Catholic church's return to Inquisition times for mobilizing church members against a bill that would give legal recognition and rights to same-sex unions.

"(The church) has gone back to the times of witch hunts and … the Holy Inquisition," Abelardo Araya, spokesman of the Diversity Movement, told newswire EFE on Monday.

Araya's remarks came one day after clergymen urged Catholic followers to sign a petition to launch a public referendum in the hopes of blocking the same-sex bill, which is pending debate in the Legislative Assembly.

San Jose Archbishop Hugo Barrantes said the referendum is a public initiative that seeks to "defend life, the principles of the church and matrimony," according to the daily La Prensa Libre.
According to Araya, the church "should abstain from government politics," adding that Catholic leaders have "manipulated" the issue.

"…In Costa Rica it's not homosexual marriage that's being spoken of, but rather the formalization of the union between persons of the same sex," Araya said.

More than 200,000 signatures are needed to put the bill through public referendum, an event that highlighted deep societal divisions when it played out over the issue of free trade with the United States in 2007.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Costa Rica sees first swine flu death

A Red Cross staff carries a patient with symptoms of influenza A (H1N1), formerly referred to as swine flu, as he arrives to Calderon Guardia hospital, in San Jose April 30, 2009. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)By Marianela Jimenez

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) – Costa Rica reported the first swine flu death outside North America on Saturday.

The Health Ministry in Costa Rica confirmed the swine flu death of a 53-year-old man, bringing the global death toll to 52, including 48 in Mexico, two in the United States and one in Canada.

Like other deaths outside Mexico, the Costa Rican man suffered from complicating illnesses, including diabetes and chronic lung disease.

The Costa Rican fatality was one of eight swine flu cases in the country confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila told The Associated Press.

Avila said officials had been unable to determine how the Costa Rican patients became infected, but she said he had not recently traveled abroad. Many flu sufferers in other nations have been linked to recent trips to the United States or Mexico.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Four more flu cases identified in Costa Rica

A worker wears a surgical mask as she sweeps Central Avenue in San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

The number of probable H1N1 flu cases in Costa Rica has risen to seven, with one already confirmed, health authorities said.

“It's better to call them ‘probable',” Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila told a roomful of reporters Tuesday morning, indicating that her ministry would rather play the numbers game cautiously. So far, 369 cases have been discarded.

Largely absent from local headlines over the past few days, the so-called swine flu has given the impression it was nearing its end point.

Yet, health officials here continue to work at full tilt to contain and identify the cases that have surfaced in Costa Rica.

While the country is only claiming one confirmed case, dozens of other “suspected” cases emerged over the weekend.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported 180 suspected cases. Five days later, officials raised the number of suspected cases to 425.

Plastering health advisory material to the insides of buses, to bulletin boards in churches and near coffee machines in work places, health officials are working to raise awareness and, at the same time, encouraging residents to practice sanitary measures to stop the virus from spreading.

Bus drivers are wiping down their vehicles to lower the risk of infection. Massive educational initiatives are being implemented at local schools.

Each visitor entering the country is required to fill out a health form in which they indicate all potential symptoms.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to advise against closed borders or restrictions to regular travel. The organization is encouraging sick travelers to delay trips and others who are developing symptoms to seek medical attention.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Depeche Mode tour to hit Costa Rica

Depeche Mode members Martin Gore, center, Dave Gahan, right, and Andrew Fletcher pose for a photo in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, May 8, 2009. Depeche Mode will start their tour on Sunday in a concert in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)By Alex Leff
Tico Times Staff

October may seem a long way off, but '80s music lovers should mark the date: Depeche Mode, live in Costa Rica, Oct. 8.

The news came with a long list of dates on the U.K. band's Web site (http://www.depechemode.com/tour.html), announcing their Tour of the Universe 2009.

Although they are icons of a two-decade-old sound, the synth-driven new wave genre, the authors of the hits "Just Can't Get Enough," "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence" have an uncanny knack for avoiding the cut-out bin in music stores, proven once more by the launch last month of their new disc, Sounds of the Universe. The album is ruling the European charts at No. 1 and 2 across much of the Continent, according to Billboard magazine.

However, a Costa Rica promoter has yet to lay claim to the concert or announce a venue, troubling signs considering recent foul-ups like this past weekend's surprise cancelation a concert by Ivory Coast's reggae star Alpha Blondy and early April's last-minute postponement of the performance by Mexican legend Vicente Fernández.

Assuming reliable promoters take charge of the Depeche Mode date, tickets will go on sale June 15, according to the Web site.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Flu virus surfaces in Costa Rica with no identified ties to Mexico

Costa Rica's Minister of Health Maria Luis Avila holds surgical face masks during a news conference in San Jose April 28, 2009. Costa Rica found a By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

Two more likely cases of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus have been identified in Costa Rica, bringing the total probable cases to four.

One of the four cases was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), following testing done in Atlanta, Georgia. The three remaining await test results in the coming week.

As the total number of suspected cases worldwide climbs to 658 and the death toll tops 100, countries continue to follow emergency action plans to keep the virus contained.

“We are prepared for the worst,” said Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila to various media groups at a press lunch on Saturday. “But, at the same time, we want to make sure it doesn't become worse.”

What is putting some health officials on edge is the fact that one of the most recent cases involves a 53-year-old man who hadn't traveled from Mexico nor did he have any known contact with someone who had recently been to Mexico. He is in critical condition at an unnamed hospital with other medical conditions, said Avila.

The health minister also indicated that the Pan American Health Organization sent Costa Rica 10,000 additional doses of antiviral medication, adding to the roughly 7,000 already here.

The virus, which has similar symptoms to a typical flu (body aches, high temperature, stuffy nose), seems to target young to middle-aged individuals. According to statistics from Costa Rica's Health Ministry, individuals between the ages 20 to 29 have the highest rate of infection at 54 nationwide, followed by the 30 to 39 age group, which has had 43 cases thus far.

The Health Ministry is advising individuals to wash their hands and to report to local medical centers if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Friday, May 01, 2009

May 1 protests

Demonstrators carry a paper mache representation of Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias during a Labor Day rally in San Jose, Friday, May 1, 2009. Sign reads in Spanish, 'I am the one selling the country'. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

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