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.

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