Costa Rica experiencing dual outbreaks of Dengue and H1N1

Public health officials in Costa Rica are scrambling to contain two ongoing outbreaks of dengue and H1N1 respectively. Dengue, one the WHO’s “neglected tropical diseases”, has been making the rounds in Central America, with limited outbreaks of dengue in Nicaragua and Honduras. Costa Rica is currently working on vector control to stop the spread of the mosquito-bourne virus. Meanwhile, Costa Rica is also working to contain a limited H1N1 outbreak, but is struggling with maintaining sufficient numbers of vaccines.

Costa Rica Star – “According to online news daily Costa Rica Hoy, health officials from la Caja estimate that more than $500 million have been spent on treatment and paid sick leave of patients who fall ill from dengue fever. According to actuaries studying figures from La Caja’s hospital and epidemiological expenditures, the costs in 2013 have not only been higher than in the previous year; they are also higher than similar costs during 2008 and 2009 combined. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal, has already claimed a couple of lives in Costa Rica. The Ministry of Health has been actively involved in controlling the vector population of Aedes aegypti, the carrier mosquito that breeds in stagnant pools of water located in the tropics. Efforts in controlling this potentially deadly insect include habitat destruction and fumigation.”

Read more here.


WHO: MERS Not a Public Health Emergency (yet)

Following their second meeting,  the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Committee on MERS has decided the outbreak in Saudi Arabia does not yet constitute a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. As such, the committee is refraining from issuing any travel restrictions at this time.

The committee met via teleconference yesterday, with members from all eight states with cases of MERS participating. While the MERS outbreak is not a PHEIC yet, the Committee nonetheless stressed that the outbreak is “serious and of great concern”. The Committee members will continue to monitor the virus’ spread, and will reconvene formally again in September.

MERS, or the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, is a recently emerged virus which causes flu like symptoms and in 60% of cases, death. The virus’ vector and reservoir remain unknown.

For the full WHO press release, see here.

(Image depicts an SEM of MERS, courtesy of the CDC & Cynthia Goldsmith/Maureen Metcalfe/Azaibi Tamin)