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Costa Rica identifies second flu victim

April 24, 2009

Costa Rican health officials identified Tuesday night a second case of Influenza A (H1N1), prompting the government to declare a national health emergency.

Health Vice Minister Dr. Ana Cecilia Morice told The Tico Times Tuesday evening the second patient is a young Costa Rican man in his late twenties who visited Mexico last week.

According to Morice, the young man presented flu-like symptoms a couple of days ago. He visited CIMA Hospital in Escazú, west of San José, where he was tested for the virus. The results, indicating the young Tico suffers from Influenza A, were released to health officials Tuesday early evening, and are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) office in the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia, for further confirmation.

News of this case emerged seven hours after another one, a 21-year-old Tica who had also recently visited Mexico who became Central America´s first victim of the so-called swine flu. Her test results are also pending confirmation from the CDC.

“We´re considering it the first case but we´re awaiting confirmation” from the CDC, Health Minister María Luisa Avila said during a press conference.

Both patients are in stable condition. Although only preliminarily confirmed to have swine flu, both patients have been instructed to stay home because they are considered contagious, Morice said.

The Influenza A (H1N1) strain has affected people between 20 and 40 years old, health officials said.

The 21-year-old – the authorities have not disclosed the flu carriers´ identities – spent 24 hours at a hospital after developing flu symptoms, including coughing, fever and muscle pain following a trip to Mexico.

She has shown signs of recovery, the authorities said, and does not need to take antiviral medication. Costa Rica possesses some 30,000 doses of antiviral medication, which will be offered at hospitals but not over the counter, officials said.

Authorities are moving to notify people the patients could have come in contact with, such as fellow passengers and the crew from their flights from Mexico, of their infection, the authorities said.

“It´s very important to follow (precautionary) measures to avoid the spread of this virus,” said Morice.

In addition to Costa Rica, the World Health Organization has identified more countries in which the virus has been detected, including New Zealand (three confirmed cases), the United Kingdom (two), Israel (two) and a second case in Spain, with no deaths reported.

The New Zealand Health Ministry expects another eight cases to be confirmed, Reuters reported.

The flu outbreak has killed as many as 149 people in Mexico – the only country in which it has claimed lives – and has infected six in Canada and as many as 65 in the U.S.

For more information, visit the CDC´s swine flu Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/?s_cid=swineFlu_outbreak_internal_001.

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