A dengue outbreak has hit the population of Dominical a town on the Pacific coast. Residents report at least 20 cases in the last two weeks and blame a nearby dike for creating the mosquito breeding ground.
According to Nancy Buchan, a resident who caught the virus, health authorities have been ignoring the emergency and refuse to send technicians to treat the patients or spray the area to kill the mosquito larvae.
“My husband also caught dengue, and the nearest hospital is just too far away. Once there, the service was too slow, and we decided to go back. Other people are not even seeking medical attention.” she said.
Rodrigo Marín is the national coordinator for Centro Nacional de Control de Vectores at the health ministry. He said he was not aware of the outbreak and asked for some time to find out. After a second phone call, he confirmed there were two notified patients and a few more with similar symptoms.
He said the ministry would be sending health workers today to go door to door to ask about symptoms and spray and destroy any breeding locations. He said that physicians might be sent to evaluate cases or sufferers might be sent to hospital for proper attention.
He also encouraged people to seek medical attention even if they have no insurance, for public hospitals will treat them.
Dominical neighbors blame the outbreak on the existence of a dike at the mouth of the Río Barú, which does not allow the water to flow and creates a perfect environment for mosquitoes to lay eggs.
“It’s not even a dike. It’s just a big bunch of sand taken from the river and placed carelessly there. We’ve never had a so-called dike and, consequently, we have never had this dengue crisis before.” said Steve Ferguson, another resident.
The dike is a project started in March 2015, after a Sala IV ruling forced the local municipality to protect residents from floods,
explained Fergus. However, the way the project was developing didn’t meet environmental criteria and was later opposed by Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental and the Sistema Nacional de Área de Conservación.
Finally, the local Asociación de Desarrollo filed a complaint before Sala IV and the works stopped in October.
On the other hand, Alberto Cole de León, re-elected mayor of Osa, denied that the dike could be causing the health alarm and said the water does flow into the ocean through the required filtration systems.
“We already invested about $40,000 on a consultancy to do things right, and we`ve also teamed up with the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias and Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to build a proper dike that would cost around $2 million.” he said.
The mayor explained this project will be presented for financing before Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur this year. The construction would start in 2017 and it will include valves to allow rain water to flow into the ocean without increasing the river’s level.