Health authorities reported Wednesday that the births of children with microcephaly in Costa Rica have quadrupled since the appearance of the Zika virus in 2016.
According to data from the Costa Rican Nutrition and Health Research Institute (INCIENSA), between 2011 and 2015, an average of 30 cases of microcephaly were recorded in national territory. That figure increased to 163 in 2017.
Microcephaly is a neonatal malformation characterized by a head much smaller than that of other children of the same age and sex. It is caused by the Zika virus.
Children with microcephaly may have delayed speech and motor function development, visual and hearing impairments, or other problems associated with neurological abnormalities.
According to INCIENSA, the first imported cases of Zika in Costa Rica were detected in February 2016, before the confirmation of the first autochthonous cases and first outbreaks.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
Given the increase in cases of microcephaly, the Health Ministry and the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) are coordinating a strategy whereby all pregnant women from 31 priority cantons receive a preventive kit containing mosquito net, male and female condoms, and repellent.
The investment of 455 million colones (about $774,500) could protect some 20,000 women. The money will fund 16,000 mosquito nets, 40,000 repellents, 600,000 male condoms and 300,000 female condoms.
“Along with these interinstitutional efforts, it is urgent that the population adopt all practices to prevent these diseases, whose consequences leave a trail of pain,” said Health Minister Daniel Salas. “In this line it is vital that all families are aware of the elimination of possible breeding sites where the mosquitoes transmitting Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya breed, much more now that the rainy season starts.”
In addition, the Caja will offer counseling and education related supporting practices to cut the transmission of the Zika virus.
This story was originally published by Semanario Universidad on May 22, 2019. It was translated and republished with permission by The Tico Times. Read the original report at Semanario Universidad here.