Costa Rica steps up health surveillance at airports

Health officials said that there is extra surveillance at airports and travelers from Africa are being registered as a first step in protecting the country from the ebola virus.

The Ministerio de Salud said that no health alert has been issued, but officials outlined the steps the country is taking after a man came down with the virus in Texas.

Meanwhile, tourism operators are wringing their hands and hoping that the disease stays in Africa.  They remember the swine flu scare in 2009 that resulted in some tourists wearing surgical masks during their stay in the country. There are no firm estimates of the financial hit the country took because of that disease.

Another story on ebola

The health ministry said that a handful of hospitals in the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, has been designated for priority training so staffers could handle an ebola case. The preparation extends to hospital laboratories.

In Dallas, Texas, health officials have quarantined family members of the ailing man, identified as Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan. Days before he left Liberia, Duncan had helped carry to a taxi a pregnant woman who later died of ebola, according to neighbors, said the A.M. Costa Rica wire services. Her illness at the time was believed to be pregnancy-related.

Up to 100 people may have had direct or indirect contact with the first person to be diagnosed with the deadly ebola virus in the United States, officials there said. Less than 20 had direct contact, and they have had contact with many others, said officials.

Erikka Neroes, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County Health Department, said none of those being monitored was showing symptoms of the disease, which include fever, uncontrollable bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea and spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

In Africa, airline passengers are being checked for a high temperature as part of the arrival process. Costa Rica has not started to do that yet.

Still the country had direct and daily air links to Texas. The only swine flu fatality in Costa Rica picked up the disease in México

Costa Rica has an additional problem that Texas does not. Monkeys are susceptible to ebola, and any widespread infection would find hosts among these animals.

Costa Rica does share with Texas the problem of illegal immigrants. Fuerza Pública officers picked up more citizens of Nepal late Wednesday in a southern part of the country. That was the second day in a row that Asians were detained.

In the past there have been illegal immigrants from West Africa.

Remember when? In 2009 foreign tourists sometimes wore surgical masks for protection.

Remember when? In 2009 foreign tourists sometimes wore surgical masks for protection.

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