A 9-year-old child with rabies died Wednesday following a two-month bout with the disease, according to a health ministry report. The boy from Palmar Norte was bitten by a wild animal when sleeping overnight in an area heavily populated with bats. He was placed into the Hospital Nacional de Niños earlier this month, the statement said, and tested positive for the disease upon his death.
This presents the first known case of rabies in Costa Rica since 2001 when two people in Corredores came down with the viral disease that causes brain inflammation. Symptoms don’t usually surface until a few months after initial infection.
Health officials warned for people to be aware of the disease, but reiterated it is by no mean’s a major concern here.
“This is not an outbreak or an alert – this is an isolated case,” said Vice Minister of Salud María Esther Anchía. “What we don’t want is for there to be panic, but yes it’s important that the population knows what measures it needs to take.”
Costa Rica’s animal health unit, the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal, has begun vaccinating in the area where the child was reported to have been bitten. They are also warning neighbors of the area to look out for the disease, which is often spread by bats in this region of the world.
In humans, death is almost always assured once symptoms begin to appear. Though dog bites are the most usual way of transmission to humans, the World Health Organization says that they very rarely spread the disease in the Americas. Costa Rica has been without canine rabies since 1970, according to the health ministry.
Alexis Sandí, an executive director for the animal health service, warned people should keep themselves far from wild animals. “Don’t keep wild animals in captivity, don’t unnecessarily handle them, and keep your domestic pets vaccinated.”