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Costa Rica’s Caribbean at risk for disease

December 5, 2008

After days of record rain, the Caribbean is highly vulnerable to dengue and other diseases, health authorities say.

People wading in flooded areas risk contracting leptospirosis, a bacterial disease caused by contact with animal urine. Limón is also the province most susceptible to dengue, a viral disease carried by mosquitoes that lay eggs in pools of rainwater.

“As soon as the water recedes, we will begin to see the full problem in Limón,” said Health Minister María Luisa Avila.

Leptospirosis and dengue have similar symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a more series form of the disease, can be fatal. While leptospirosis should be treated with antibiotics, there is no medication for dengue. Those infected should rest and drink fluids.

Health officials are now advising people to wear rubber boots to protect cuts from exposure to contaminated water. People should also treat or boil their water before drinking it, said María Ethel Trejos, who works at the ministry.

The Pan American Health Organization (OPS) is seeking a $45,000 donation from a foreign government to help control and prevent disease in Limón, said Andrés Calvo at OPS. He said there is a “high probabil ity ” that the money will come through.

The Health Ministry, the OPS and the National Water and Sewer System (AyA) will decide how to spend the funds. The money could pay for testing drinking water, buying hydration powder for residents, or buying the chemical Abate to kill mosquito larvae, Calvo said.

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