Health officials announced the first confirmed case of chikungunya, a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, in Costa Rica. Friday a health director said a French tourist who was in the country from May 10 to May 21 had recently tested positive for the disease at France’s national virology lab.
María Ethel Trejos, the ministry’s health surveillance director, said the infected traveler may not have been detected at the borders because she could have still been in a primary, non-symptom phase of infection. As cases have risen throughout the Caribbean and other parts of the region, police border units have been trained to spot chikungunya symptoms.
“In this case, it could be that the patient came with the disease still incubating while in the country,” Ms. Trejos said. “Nonetheless, to oversee more proactive measures and more protection at the national level, we are considering this as the country’s first confirmed case.”
Ms. Trejos said Costa Rican officials received the French lab’s results from a test taken May 27. Taking into account the normal incubation periods of chikungunya that last about two to three days, it seems highly likely that the person was infected during the stay here.
More than 250,000 people in Caribbean states like Haiti, Cuba, Saint Martin, and the Dominican Republic have already been infected with the disease this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is currently no medication available to prevent chikungunya.
The center has sent out an advisory to travelers, warning them that if they are visiting any Caribbean island to avoid getting mosquito bites as best they can, as that is the only assured prevention. This is the first time the disease has broken out in the Americas, said the center’s report, although it remains on the level one watch stage.
The painful illness is akin to dengue. Infections are rarely deadly and both are spread by the Aedes mosquito. It causes severe joint aches, nausea, fevers, and insomnia.
Outfits from the Ministerio de Salud, the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social, and the Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñaza en Nutrición y Salud are collaborating to prevent and weed-out any potential outbreaks of chikungunya or dengue in Costa Rica. On top of securing land, sea, and air borders, officials have been rooting out common breeding-grounds for the Aedes mosquitos. These are usually places with sitting water, like outdoor buckets, animal feeders, and gutters.