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

May 1, 2009

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 María 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.

See the Top Story for more on Costa Rica´s efforts to prevent a flu outbreak.

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