Officials from Costa Rica’s Health Ministry on Monday confirmed that two women from the community of Sámara, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, are the first two confirmed cases of locally acquired Zika virus.
Officials noted that none of the women had left the country and neither had contact with people who were recently abroad.
The first case is that of a 24-year-old woman currently in her 38th week of pregnancy, and who on Feb. 10 attended a local clinic after presenting various symptoms.
“The first lab test resulted negative, but some of the results were suspicious,” Health Minister Fernando Llorca said at a news conference on Monday. “We conducted two more tests, but we got the same results.”
Officials then consulted experts from the Pan American Health Organization, who recommended a variation in the tests. Those tests were positive for Zika, Llorca said.
The ministry’s director of health surveillance, Daniel Salas, said doctors at the Nicoya Hospital performed ultrasounds and other tests on the baby, and confirmed that he does not show signs of complications or microcephaly, a disease that doctors in some countries claim may be linked to the mosquito-born disease.
The woman is currently at her home and is successfully recovering. She is taking precautionary steps to avoid mosquito bites, Salas said, adding that, “she also is attending the hospital regularly for follow-ups on the baby’s condition.”
The other confirmed case is of a 32-year-old woman, also from Sámara, who was tested at Nicoya Hospital two weeks ago. Llorcas received the positive results of her tests during the news conference while he was announcing the results of the first case.
The second woman’s condition is stable, and she is recovering at home. Doctors tested the woman’s relatives, including her 1-year-old daughter, and results so far are negative, Salas said.
He also said that following the confirmation of the first case, ministry officials already had tested and ruled out contagion of four other patients in Sámara.
The ministry’s director of vector control, Rodrigo Marín, confirmed that the ministry has declared a health alert for the canton of Nicoya, on the Pacific coastal peninsula of the same name.
The alert status allows the ministry to launch an active search for patients with fever and other symptoms in that community. It also triggers a health protocol that includes visits to fumigate homes, distribute information and allocate resources for the local municipality.
“In the past few days we have fumigated no less than 3,000 homes in Sámara,” Marín said.
Minister Llorca said so far this year officials have tested a total of 51 people for Zika, including the two women already confirmed as positive.
“If we find more cases and we can confirm an outbreak, we are ready to ask the executive branch to approve an executive decree declaring a national emergency,” he said.
Before the two confirmed cases, Costa Rica registered only two cases of Zika virus contagion, both of whom were infected abroad. The first case was a 25-year-old Tico who contracted the virus during a visit to Colombia. The second was a Honduran man who was here for only a few days before returning home.
The Health Ministry had reported the case of a U.S. man who presented symptoms last month, but he left the country before he could be tested. Although it is not clear if the man was infected here, a few days later the ministry received confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which prompted the inclusion of Costa Rica in the list of countries with active circulation of Zika virus.