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Worker at Costa Rica hotel site died of tick-borne disease

November 14, 2008

GUANACASTE – A Nicaraguan construction worker who died Nov. 6 at a resort construction site on Matapalo Beach in the northwestern province of Guanacaste succumbed to a tick-borne infection, health officials said this week.

The death of Manuel Pérez Sánchez, who suffered diarrhea and vomiting, coincided with the illnesses of hundreds of other workers, initially fueling a scare of a large-scale outbreak at the site, possibly caused by the drinking water.

Authorities have since determined that Sánchez died of Ehrlichiosis, a bacterial disease spread by ticks.

On Monday, Health Minister María Luisa Avila and other government officials, including Nicaraguan Ambassador Harold Rivas, visited the site and found no signs of potable water contamination.

Avila, however, issued sanitary orders to clean up the distribution of food for the workers and to limit the number of workers per dormitory. Most of the construction project´s 1,500 workers were crammed into bunks stacked three high up to the dorm room ceilings.

According to the daily La Nación, more than 300 of Sánchez´s fellow workers visited clinics over the weekend, but most suffered from respiratory infections and showed no symptoms of diarrhea or tick-borne illness.

“It was more collective hysteria than anything else,” said Enrique Jiménez, Guanacaste director of the Health Ministry. “There was no outbreak. This was normal pathology for a (dense) group of 1,500 people.”

Avila requested that a clinic be erected on the construction site, and that a doctor and nurse be present eight hours a day.

The workers are building the 701-room, $125 million Hotel RIU Guanacaste, part of the Spanish hotel chain RIU hotels. The hotel is half complete and on target to be finished by November 2009.

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