Costa Rican Health Ministry officials on Thursday confirmed two more cases of the chikungunya virus. Both were reported in the central Pacific community of Jacó, bringing the total number of cases to 47. Of those, 40 are considered cases that originated from abroad, while seven are classified as local.
Health Ministry General Director Priscilla Herrera García at a press conference announced a contingency plan targeting communities in the central and northern Pacific regions, where all local cases were detected.
The confirmed local cases originated in the Pacific communities of Parrita, Costa de Pájaros, Chomes, Tamarindo and Manzanillo. Manzanillo, Puntarenas, has registered three cases so far.
The ministry’s response includes the suspension of holidays and vacation time for some staff to allow them to monitor the situation and continue fumigation efforts in affected areas into the new year.
Herrera called on municipal officials to help conduct inspections and eradicate mosquito breeding sites. She said the ministry also is working with tourism businesses affiliated with the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels. The high tourism season in Costa Rica already has begun, and business owners are concerned reports of a chikungunya outbreak could cause a drop in visits.
The ministry’s director of health surveillance, María Ethel Trejos, said officials are monitoring a spike in cases in recent weeks in other Central American countries, particularly Nicaragua. Last month, officials issued a preventive alert prompted by a report of 300 confirmed cases of chikungunya in that country.
Thousands of Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica travel home in December for the holidays and return in January.
“This situation increases the risk of infected people entering the country in coming weeks, so we will step up our preventive actions at border areas as well,” Trejos said.
The chikungunya virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue, and the Aedes albopictus. Both types of mosquito live in Costa Rica.
Similar to dengue, chikungunya causes fever, severe muscle and joint pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue and rashes. Symptoms, however, are more aggressive than dengue and can last for up to 10 months.