Costa Rica on alert following cholera outbreak in Mexico

October 9, 2013

Costa Rica’s National Football Team, known as “La Sele,” will play their last World Cup qualifying game against Mexico on Tuesday, but they aren’t the only ones preparing for the match. The Costa Rican Health Ministry this week launched an anti-cholera campaign in hotels that will be hosting Mexican fans. As of last Monday, Mexican health officials had reported 77 confirmed cases of cholera in that country.

No cases of the disease have been reported so far in Costa Rica, but the ministry’s director of health monitoring, María Ethel Trejos, last week issued a preventive alert to all hotel staff members – especially those located in the metropolitan area. The alert asked hotel staff to report any guests experiencing cholera symptoms, including diarrhea and severe vomiting.

A similar protocol was implemented during the 2013 Central American Games in San José last March. It requires that anyone with cholera symptoms must receive special attention at public health facilities. Officials also will be monitoring the country’s borders, ports and airports.

Mexico’s Health Ministry this week reported that one person has died from cholera and 77 others are sick in the state of Hidalgo, near Mexico City. Cholera also has been detected in other states. An additional 17,000 lab tests are pending. Mexican officials, however, have not yet declared the outbreak an epidemic, the Mexican daily Reforma reported.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Primary symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration. It is not spread from person to person, but rather by consuming food or water contaminated by fecal matter from infected people.

Health officials say the best way to prevent infection is proper hand-washing and avoiding eating food or drinking beverages of questionable origin or preparation.

The last cases of cholera in Costa Rica were reported in 1997. The worst episode of the disease occurred in 1856, when the country faced an attempted invasion by a group of mercenaries led by U.S. filibuster William Walker. At the time, cholera caused the deaths of nearly 10 percent of Costa Rica’s population.

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