Tourism groups launch fight against zika in Nicoya

Tourism organizations and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo began a pilot project Wednesday to counter the zika virus in Nicoya.

Two women have been confirmed as having contracted the virus in nearby Sámara on the Pacific coast.

The pilot project involves distribution of information and fumigating in conjunction with the Ministerio de Salud and the various police departments, which might be asked to provide transportation to anti-virus workers, according to the plan.

A commission, headed by the tourism institute, is being set up to include members of the various tourism organizations in the area. These include the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles, the Red Nacional de Pequeños Hoteleros, the Asociación Pro Imagen, the Asociación Costarricense de Tour Operadores, the Cámara Costarricense de Restaurantes y Afines, the Cámara Guanacasteca de Turismo, the Cámara de Comercio de Guácimo, the Federación de Cámaras de Comercio y Turismo de Limón and the Área de Conservación del Pacífico Central.

The plan calls for touring neighborhoods and handing out information three times a week for a month in the community of Nicoya. Organizers said they also hope to prevail on the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería to distributed information at the arrival points of the nation.

Tourism operators will be encouraged to maintain an effective level of fumigation. The project will be expanded to other areas, organizers said.

The stated goal of the project is to guarantee tourists a pleasant visit.

All of the Pacific coast is reeling under the disclosure that the zika virus is in the country and the various warnings put out by foreign governments and even the health ministry.

The concern comes just weeks before Semana Santa, one of the top tourism periods of the year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is investigating 14 new reports of zika virus infection in the United States, all suspected to be sexually transmitted.

The Atlanta-based Centers made the announcement Tuesday and said all of the 14 cases are women whose only known risk factor is sexual contact with a male partner who had recently traveled to an area with local zika transmissions.

In its statement, the Centers said the new reports suggest that sexual transmission may be a more likely means of zika transmission than previously thought.

Several of the cases involve pregnant women. Zika virus has been linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and can suffer developmental delays. Scientists have not yet proven a definite cause-and-effect.

The Centers recommends that men who have recently traveled to regions with local zika transmissions use condoms or refrain from sexual contact with pregnant women or women who could become pregnant.

While sexual transmission of the virus is possible, health authorities note that the primary means of infection by the zika virus is still from mosquito bites, and they urge people to prevent mosquito bites using mosquito repellent, window screens, and long-sleeved shirts.

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