Unless you’ve been cut-off from all forms of communication, you’ve likely been bombarded with the media reports on on the Zika virus in Central and South America. The Center for Disease Control has issued travel advisories for affected areas, which does not include Costa Rica. At this time, there are NO CASES OF ZIKA CONTRACTED WITHIN COSTA RICA. We have two cases of it and both were contracted outside of the country, in Columbia and Honduras. The Costa Rican government has already fumigated the area around the victims’ homes to prevent mosquitos from possibly biting him and spreading the disease. They are being proactive and diligent, monitoring all passengers entering Costa Rica for signs of infection.
There are cases of Zika in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Arkansas, Texas, and Massachusettes – currently, the USA has more cases of it than Costa Rica. The World Health Organization says by this summer, it will have spread all over the Americas, including the USA, except in Canada and Chile.
What is Zika?
* It is a virus transmitted through bites from the same kind of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, that can spread other tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. It is not known to spread from person to person. The only areas in the Americas without this mosquito are Canada and Chile. There are no vaccines for it at present time.
* 80% of people infected show no symptoms. Those who do experience mild, flu-like symptoms, with fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes, which last no more than a week. Symptoms typically occur about two to seven days after the mosquito bites. If affected, the WHO recommends rest, liquids and acetaminophen for fever and pain.
* The virus is gone from the bloodstream within five to seven days. There is no evidence to suggest it would lie dormant and pop up again. If you get it, you likely won’t know, will have mild symptoms and then will be immunized for life.
* Deaths and hospitalizations caused by the Zika virus are rare. Fetuses and newborns are particularly at risk, though. The disease is suspected of causing two serious complications: neurological problems and birth defects in babies born to infected women. But while there appears to be a connection with Zika, researchers have not definitively confirmed a causal link.
* It’s spreading in many different countries where people are in close quarters, lots of mosquitoes are more present, and where there is a lack of screens on windows, air conditioning in buildings and insect repellent (which are not the conditions found throughout Costa Rica)
In short, the Zika virus will likely have NO effect on those whom may contract it. The biggest concern is with pregnant women and the possibility of the baby contracting microcephaly. CDC says that “knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving.” Until more is known, it recommends “special precautions for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.”
What About Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a tropical country however, we do not have the same issues with mosquitos found in other countries, such as Brazil where it is epidemic, for a few reasons:
a) Costa Rica has the highest population of birds and bats in the Western Hemisphere, which keep the bug population in check – bats eat between 600 – 1000 mosquitos an hour.
I’ve honestly had way more problems with mosquitos in Canada than I’ve ever had in Costa Rica. Because we have low urban populations compared to other countries, there are more bats all over the country. And the beach areas are not densely built so Mother Nature keeps the bugs in check.
b) the areas of Brazil with the highest concentration of Zika are cities with standing water, which proliferate during the wet, hot summer. Costa Rica does not have similar urban conditions as Brazil nor as the other countries with high Zika rates.
c) Costa Rica spends over $6 million USD a year fumigating the country, which is the size as West Virginia. Because dengue is present, the Health Department is very diligent with fumigation, on-going educational campaigns as well as door to door inspections to minimize standing water/breeding grounds. Thanks to this diligence, Costa Rica’s dengue infection rate is quite low.
d) Costa Rica has been focused on iradicating Aedes aegypti mosquito (which transmits dengue and Zika) for years already. This is one reason why surrounding countries have Zika but Costa Rica has not yet a case of infection caused in-country.
e) hotels and resorts spray their grounds on a regular basis to keep the mosquitos away.
f) repellent is very effective when applied regularly
How to Prevent Contracting Zika
* wear insect repellant. Apply it AFTER you’ve applied sunscreen
* stay in a location with air conditioning or screens on the windows
* You can also go one step further and wear clothing that contains permethrin, which is a synthetic insecticide that started showing up in consumer products in 2003. These products have been tested by the EPA and determined to be effective at deterring pests, and safe for children and women who are pregnant or nursing.
If anything, Costa Rica is better equipped to deal with mosquitos than many states and countries, as we have on-going anti-dengue campaigns to keep the mosquito population down.
Costa Rica is working hard to keep Zika out of the country and non-pregnant visitors taking regular precautions against insects should have no issues.