Costa Rica is outpacing past dengue rates as well as its Central American neighbors, while worldwide, case numbers are exploding.
The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show Costa Rica with 11,672 reported cases of dengue so far this year, which is not updated to the latest bulletin from the Costa Rican government, which reports 14,929 cases.
However, the WHO numbers from early July provide a useful comparison point for how other countries are faring in a worldwide epidemic.
El Salvador reported 9,696 cases of dengue this year, followed by Nicaragua, which reported 8,967 cases. Honduras has had 8,380 cases, Guatemala 3,046, Panama 278 and Belize has yet to report a single case of dengue in 2013.
Costa Rican media have reported on their country’s substantial lead in dengue, such as a Tuesday story by crhoy.com that states that Costa Rica has an even larger lead than first reported. The online newspaper reported some 14,900 cases for Costa Rica compared to only 1,660 for Nicaragua, its northern neighbor. The discrepancy in numbers arose from some health ministries reporting both “confirmed” and “suspected” dengue cases. Costa Rica did not provide separate numbers.
Even using the WHO numbers, Costa Rica’s incidence rate far outpaces the rest of Central America. Costa Rica reported nearly 256 cases per 100,000 people. In second place was Nicaragua at 172 cases per 100,000.
At the current pace, Costa Rica will exceed 2012’s reported dengue total of 22,243 cases, according to the WHO. Dengue tends to increase during the rainy season, which will last until November for most of the country. In 2012, both Nicaragua and El Salvador reported more cases of dengue than Costa Rica.
In the Americas, the country with the largest reported cases is Brazil, with 950,000 cases according to the WHO.
The virus has spread across South Asia as well. Thailand reported 59,000 cases so far this year with 68 deaths.
Recent research also indicates that dengue could be higher than the reported numbers. An April report in the scientific journal Nature argued that dengue is underreported.
Costa Rica’s government has strongly encouraged its population to join in the battle against dengue, saying the government cannot manage the disease on its own. At a Tuesday press conference at the Casa Presidencial, members of the Costa Rican press grilled health officials on whether their repeated requests for community involvement was blaming the citizens for the dengue outbreak.
The president of Costa Rica’s Social Security System, or Caja, which is the country’s public health care system, said the government was not blaming the people, but did require their participation in eliminating breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry dengue.
“In one neighborhood, if everybody complies, and one person doesn’t comply it creates a problem,” Caja President Ileana Balmaceda said.
Balmaceda said the government will continue efforts to kill mosquitoes with fumigation.
The government has asked citizens to cover any water containers, and to remove containers where water can accumulate from rain.
The government announced a campaign by the Health and Education ministries to combat dengue, warning that more than 1 million Costa Rican students from grade school to college could be at risk this year.
“Children and young people need to bring the message and initiative to their homes to eliminate it,” Education Minister Leonardo Garnier told Costa Rica’s La Prensa Libre.