Chikungunya and dengue viruses overtake Guanacaste
HUACAS, Guanacaste — The pain doesn’t sit on the surface. It lies deep in the bones, rising up in every flex or twist of a joint. For patients with dengue fever or the chikungunya virus, it’s these aches that bother them the most.
“You feel awful with both diseases,” said César Fuentes, a doctor with the Beachside Clinic in Huacas, Guanacaste, near Tamarindo. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot we can do.”
At least two patients a day show up at the Beachside Clinic with symptoms of either dengue or chikungunya, Fuentes said, and the clinic isn’t alone. Since July, coastal provinces, especially Guanacaste, have seen spikes in confirmed cases of the diseases. Without a blood test the two viruses are almost indistinguishable, and both cause fever, headaches, joint pain, extreme fatigue and rashes. Doctors will monitor a patient’s vitals, but beyond pumping the patient full of Tylenol, there is nothing they can do to ease the symptoms.
Chikungunya cases have increased 20-fold since last year when the virus first arrived in Costa Rica. While chikungunya is rarely fatal, patients can experience pain in their joints for up to a year after contracting the virus. A new study released in the scientific journal “Neurology” last month also showed that those infected with chikungunya were more likely to later develop encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain inflammation.
Costa Rica has had 3,700 cases of chikungunya in 2015, and more than half of these infections occurred in the last two months. Guanacaste, its neighboring coastal province of Puntarenas and the Caribbean coastal province of Limón have been the most severely affected.
According to the Health Ministry, the number of people infected with dengue has also increased this year, with 14,322 confirmed cases. Nearly 75 percent of these infections occurred in Guanacaste and Puntarenas.
While the virus usually lurks in highly populated areas, it has also now spread into more rural zones. At one point in September, the entire 300-person village of Arado in Guanacaste was reportedly infected with dengue.
Dengue fever has long been common in Costa Rica’s coastal regions, but Health Ministry officials are concerned about the spike in infections. In 2013, nearly 50,000 people in Costa Rica were infected with dengue, an all-time record. The next year, the number of cases dropped significantly. Since dengue is a cyclical disease, the Health Ministry says the slight increase this year could signify the beginning of another spike.
“In Guanacaste everyone has had dengue, and we know how to treat it,” Fuentes said. “Here people should wear mosquito repellent the same way they wear sunscreen.”
You may be interested
Updates on Costa Rica’s flood recovery effortsAlejandro Zúñiga - July 27, 2021
These are the latest updates from Costa Rican authorities on disaster-recovery efforts underway after flooding destroyed homes and key infrastructure…
Route 36 bridge not expected until WednesdayAlejandro Zúñiga - July 26, 2021
A bridge reestablishing transit on Route 36 near Penshurst, Limón, isn't expected to be ready until Wednesday, authorities now say.…
Brisa Hennessy reaches quarterfinals in Olympic surfingThe Tico Times - July 26, 2021
Costa Rican surfer Brisa Hennessy has reached the quarterfinals of the women's shortboard at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The…