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Boston teenagers go home with flu virus

May 8, 2009

A group of young musicians from Boston came to Costa Rica last month to share their talents and connect with people here through music. But they left with a little more than they bargained for.

The Health Ministry received a letter on Saturday from the Boston group, Canta Mundi, informing them that three of the students were found carrying the H1N1 influenza virus. They are in “good condition” according to the health minister, and have arrived back to their home country safely.

Yet, tracing the path of potential infection becomes more than a game of connect the dots for health officials.

“They were in Escazú, Alajuela, back to Escazú …They were in Liberia … Escazú again, Alajuela…Guanacaste…Puntarenas,” said Health Minister María Luisa Avila, listing off the places the musical group traveled in their 11-day visit. “We don´t know if they infected anyone in Costa Rica.”

The trip to Costa Rica was coordinated with the Costa Rican Ministry of Culture and Youth and participants, who ranged in age from 15 to 25, distributed musical instruments to children affected by the January earthquake.

The news comes on the heels of the first reported death in Costa Rica as a result of the flu virus that has killed more than 48 people in Mexico.

A 53-year-old man died of complications resulting from the flu on Saturday, May 9, compounded by a lung condition and diabetes. As of May 11, the Health Ministry is reporting eight confirmed cases, two probable cases and 811 suspected cases. More than 700 cases have already been discarded.

According to Vice Minister of Health Ana Morice, flu season typically peaks in late May and early June, with the change of climate and the start of the rainy season, which places Costa Rica in a more vulnerable position in the face of a pandemic.

Yet, health officials here believe the rate of infection is slowing and that Costa Rica will see fewer and fewer cases in the coming weeks.

“It´s going down because of prevention measures,” Morice said on Monday.

In other news, the United States recently shipped 30,000 H1N1 protection kits to Central American countries. Although Costa Rica is the only country in the region with a confirmed death, it was not among the countries receiving the kits. The kits are being shipped to Nicaragua, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua.

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