Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has sounded the alarm in response to a troubling surge in respiratory illnesses among the nation’s children.
Over the past two weeks, hospitals have reported an average of 117 daily pediatric admissions for respiratory viruses. The influx has strained emergency services, with bed occupancy exceeding capacity at 113%. In addition to hospitalizations, over 300 cases are treated on an outpatient basis daily.
The 27-bed Intensive Care Unit has reached a staggering 214% occupancy rate given the high demand. Notably, the majority of affected children are under 5 years old, with 40% being infants under 1 year old and 60% between ages 1 and 4. Their average hospital stay lasts around 7 days, whether in the ICU or general wards. An average of 2 critically ill patients are admitted daily.
Facing this public health crisis, preventative measures are imperative. Ensuring children receive vaccinations appropriate for their age is paramount. Hand washing, especially after contact with respiratory secretions, contaminated objects, using the bathroom and before meals, is another key measure.
When coughing or sneezing, disposable tissues should be used along with proper technique. Avoiding crowded places is strongly advised, particularly taking children under 5 to mass events. Keeping children away from sick individuals reduces transmission risks.
According to the Ministry of Health, should your child exhibit symptoms, seeking prompt medical care is vital. Administering medications without prior consultation is discouraged. Opting for outdoor activities in well-ventilated areas is recommended. Children with respiratory symptoms, diarrhea or vomiting should refrain from educational institutions.
Promoting prevention is essential not just for respiratory diseases but also gastrointestinal illnesses. Individuals requiring specialized care should first visit appropriate primary care facilities.
With hospitals stretched thin, the public must take responsibility and exercise vigilance. Following preventative protocols, recognizing warning signs early and accessing care at the first signs of illness in children will be critical to containing this crisis.
The health and safety of Costa Rica’s youth hangs in the balance. As alarming reports continue to emerge, Costa Ricans must come together to enact measures that safeguard the health of the nation’s children during this precarious time.