Viral outbreak is posing a problem for tourism

The outbreak of the chikungunya virus is expected to take its toll on tourism.

Health officials said Wednesday that those vacationing in the areas where there is the viral outbreak should use mosquito repellent in the early morning and in the evenings. Tourists also ought to make sure that where they stay is screened and protected from mosquitoes. Elsewhere bed nets laced with insecticide have proved successful.

Residents of the outbreak areas are being instructed to fumigate and to eliminate places where mosquitoes might breed, including all types of trash. Even small boats that should be overturned, health workers said.

Health officials said they feared the end of Christmas vacation will bring more cases from Nicaragua where the disease is more prevalent. There also is a fear that vacationing Central Valley residents will bring the disease home from Puntarenas and Guanacaste where there are confirmed cases now.  That happens with dengue each year.

Laboratory tests with blood have confirmed three cases of  a chikungunya virus infection in  Manzanillo and one in Chomes, but there are 185 suspected cases in the areas.

Health workers for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and the Ministerio de Salud also have located possible cases in Costa de Pájaros, Puntarenas.

The viral disease sometimes is confused with dengue, which also causes fever and aches in the bones. Some health workers are going house-to-house to confirm cases.

The World Health Organization notes that the name chikungunya derives from a word in the African Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain, World Health says. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks, the agency adds.

There are nearly 2,000 cases of dengue in the coastal areas this year, too, adding to the confusion.

The health ministry said Tuesday that there also were cases of chikungunya in Parrita and Tamarindo.

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