The zika virus has come to Costa Rica in the person of a 25-year-old Desamparados resident who picked up the disease while visiting Colombia, according to the Ministerio de Salud. Health experts assume that with the virus prevalent in adjacent countries, there is little to stop the virus from entering Costa Rica.
The health ministry said that the Desamparados man returned to the country Saturday and visited a public health clinic the next day. The presence of the virus was confirmed Tuesday, said the ministry.
The ministry said that already this year some 31,782 homes have been visited and more than 53,000 have been fumigated. In addition, health workers removed nearly 136,000 places where mosquitoes could develop.
The zika virus is carried by the Aedes aegypti, the same insect that carries dengue, chikungunya and malaria, which is why it has been the continual target of health workers.
Workers were busy Tuesday fumigating in a 100-meter radius of the home of the Desamparados man. They also reported that they visited the homes of relatives to see if the virus has spread.
Meanwhile, University of Notre Dame researchers reported that they have found populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in a Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
More troubling is their report that genetic evidence shows that the insects overwintered for the last four years, meaning that they are adapting to the northern climate well out of their normal range.
Infections with zika usually are mild, but the virus can have devastating effects on the unborn.
In October 2015, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Universidad de Sucre in Colombia ran the first tests confirming the presence of zika virus transmission in the South American country.
In a study published Tuesday researchers document a disease trajectory that started with nine positive patients and has now spread to more than 13,000 infected individuals in Colombia.
“Colombia is now only second to Brazil in the number of known zika infections,” said lead author Matthew Aliota, a research scientist in the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
Pregnant women in Brazil and Hawaii infected with zika have given birth to babies with small heads and underdeveloped brains, a condition called microcephaly.
“If you’re pregnant or planning on being pregnant, absolutely, cancel your vacation,” says Aliota, echoing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning that pregnant women not travel to the more than 20 countries now known to have active zika transmission, like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and in the Caribbean. In these countries, mosquitoes are spreading the virus to people.
The symptoms of zika virus are “really nonspecific and it overlaps with a lot of things, especially with dengue virus and chikungunya,” says Aliota. “It’s hard when someone comes in with a fever and a rash to narrow it down.”