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Costa Rica Health Ministry may turn to fines to combat sprawling cases of dengue

As the rate of dengue cases continues to rapidly rise, the Health Ministry might start looking to people’s wallets to combat the outbreak.

“What we need is a different response [from the public] because when we arrive to fumigate, people aren’t going after the hatcheries themselves,” said Health Minister Daisy Corrales at the Casa Presidencial on Tuesday. 

“Based on our experience with tobacco, people seem to respond well to fines,” she observed.

The ministry has been organizing awareness campaigns and teams have been fumigating areas with high numbers of mosquitoes, which pass the disease to humans. But as the number of cases continues to increase, the public health department has struggled to find other solutions.

Corrales said that one control campaign discovered 16 “hatcheries,” or stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs and multiply, in the same house.

Dengue cases nationally are up over 250 percent from the same period last year, according to data published by the Health Ministry on its website.

Figures collected up to July 6 reported 14,929 cases of dengue nationally, compared to 4,116 in 2012.

José Luis Garcés, a doctor at the Health Ministry who works on dengue, told The Tico Times that the total number of cases as of July 25 was 22,055. Garcés added that there have been five deaths attributed to dengue in Costa Rica so far this year.

Pacífico Central and Chorotega reported the highest incidences of dengue, according to the July 6 data. The cantons of Nicoya, Puntarenas, Pérez Zeledón, Orotina and Pococí also reported high numbers of cases.

Costa Rica has been struggling this year with the highest number of dengue cases in Central America, according to Corrales. The head of the Health Ministry did not offer a specific reason for the explosion of dengue cases compared to past years, saying that it was a combination of factors including the tropical climate, rains and the public’s lack of effort.

Costa Rica is not alone in its struggle with dengue. Dengue cases have surged around the world, from Central America to Thailand.   

Despite the rising number of cases, Corrales insisted that the ministry’s recommendations, when followed, are effective.

“Counteracting this situation is a human act and we see results” when people follow the recommendations, she said.

Ticos may not have to worry about fines any time soon. Corrales noted that any kind of monetary punishment would have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly first.

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