Though 2013 will likely be remembered as the year of dengue, the number of cases weekly has plummeted since August, falling at or below last year’s rate for five consecutive weeks.
The latest reports from the Health Ministry put the total dengue cases for 2013 at 48,685. The previous record, set in 2007, was 37,798 cases. The number of cases began to surge around May, coinciding with the beginning of the rainy season for most of the country. Weekly reports peaked with more than 2,000 cases for eight weeks in a row from mid-July to the end of August, when the number of case dropped significantly.
Director of the Health Ministry Ileana Herrera credited the educational campaign on removing mosquito nurseries with lowering the dengue numbers.
“The principal way to insure that there isn’t dengue is to insure that there aren’t mosquitoes,” Herrera said in an interview.
In July, the Health Ministry partnered with the Education Ministry in a nationwide campaign to encourage citizens to remove standing water from trash, open containers, boats and various other objects in order to eliminate mosquito nurseries.
Dengue rates have typically risen and fallen with Costa Rica’s May to November rainy season, as more water-based breeding grounds become available for mosquitoes. The years of 2012 and 2013 were not exceptions. However, this year, numbers began to plummet in August, the height of rainy season.
Herrera said the government will work to prevent 2014 from becoming another record year for dengue, saying the government will maintain its educational campaign on mosquito-nursery removal throughout the dry season.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne virus found in tropical regions from Asia to Latin America. It was first recognized in the 1950s in the Phillipines and Thailand, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus often causes severe flu-like symptoms, including fevers, vomiting, weakness and headaches.
The Health Ministry has reported that the high rate of infection this year is due to the presence of three strains in the country. As with most viral infections, the human body develops an immunity after surviving an attack. In the case of dengue, immunity to one strain does not provide immunity to other strains.