The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Costa Rica surged to 26 on Thursday, following laboratory tests performed using newly arrived kits.
“These are old cases that have finally been confirmed,” said Ana Morice, vice minister of health, in an interview with The Tico Times. “They’re the same ones we had listed as probable, but now they have been tested in laboratories.”
Since the first cases began appearing in Costa Rica in late April, health officials have been unable to confirm the existence of the H1N1 virus without sending samples to laboratories in the United States.
Through initial testing here, health officials established 13 likely cases and 126 suspected cases.
Samples from the likely cases were sent to a laboratory in Atlanta, GA, in the U.S., and eight of these were returned with positive results. Another case was confirmed in laboratories here.
Once the testing kits arrived in Costa Rica last week and were pulled out of boxes and assembled, health officials confirmed 17 more cases.
Several people who had contact with a Boston, MA, singing group touring Costa Rica recently are among the newly confirmed cases, as well as a handful of people who had had contact with the 53-year-old Heredia man who died on May 9.
The World Health Organization, which issued an alert in late April warning members that a “pandemic is imminent”, reports 10,423 cases worldwide and 80 deaths.
To continue testing, Costa Rica’s Nutrition and the Health Research Institute (INCIENSA) received a $200,000 grant from the Pan American Health Organization. These funds will be used for the purchase of equipment such as refrigerators and a bio-security chamber.
“With this new equipment … the country will be able to continue responding and monitoring the virus in the next few weeks,” Elizabeth Sáenz, coordinator of the National Center of Virology said in a statement.
“With this donation … we will be able to gradually process 2,000 samples.”