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Costa Rica doctors association alarmed by low vacciation rates of personnel as 17 dead from AH1N1 virus

January 8, 2016

The Costa Rican Doctors and Surgeons Association said that only 30 percent of the personnel have been vaccinated against AH1N1 at the San Carlos hospital, the site of the largest number of deaths attributed to the respiratory virus known as swine flu. The news comes after the Health Ministry announced the 17th death linked to the virus on Thursday.

During a visit to the San Carlos hospital in northern Costa Rica, Doctors Association President Alexis Castillo said the staff he spoke with were concerned about the resources available to address the respiratory virus.

“They’re asking for more equipment, four heart monitors, staff to support epidemiological monitoring and they’re expressing concern over how aggressive the virus is that’s attacking patients,” Castillo said in a statement Thursday.

To date, there have been six deaths from AH1N1 at the San Carlos hospital, which has seen the largest concentration of fatalities related to the flu. Deaths have also been reported in Alajuela (5), Cartago (1), Heredia (1), Liberia (1), and at the private La Católica hospital in San José (1) as of Thursday. A three-year-old child also died from AH1N1 at the Children’s Hospital in San José this season along with a 41-year-old woman from India at the CIMA Hospital outside San José.

The Doctors Association’s board was debating whether or not to launch a vaccination campaign for health workers there. On Wednesday, officials from the Health Ministry and the Social Security System, which manages the country’s public health care system, said that it was too late in the current flu season to start vaccinating the public.

The human body requires at least six weeks and up to 12 weeks after a vaccination to develop the antibodies needed to fight off infection, the Social Security System, also known as the Caja, said.

The Caja announced earlier this week that it would start its annual vaccination campaign in April. Out of the 17 who have died from the flu this season, 14 were not vaccinated during the 2014-2015 flu season.

Despite the unfortunate deaths this season, fatalities of swine flu are not record-breaking so far this season, according to data from the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute presented by Casa Presidencial Friday. The two highest years for flu deaths were in 2009 with 58 followed by more than 30 deaths in 2013.

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