January 29th, 2016 (ICR News) Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health confirmed a second imported case of the Zika virus on Friday.
The infected man had arrived in the country from Honduras.
The first case occurred on Tuesday, when a 25-year-old Costa Rican man arrived home from a trip to Colombia, where he is believed to have contracted the mosquito-borne virus. The man had already begun suffering symptoms while in Colombia.
So far, there have been no confirmed indigenous cases of the virus in Costa Rica, though health experts warn that its arrival is nearly inevitable.
Early this week, Costa Rican officials announced that anyone arriving in the country – whether by land, sea, or air – will be required to fill out a questionnaire aimed at identifying those who have symptoms of the virus.
Airlines crews will also be required to note in their standard Declaration of Health if any of their passengers appear to be sick when arriving in the country.
Authorities are also considering deploying body temperature scanners in airports and other points of entry.
In addition, leaflets will be handed out to those arriving in the country warning of the dangers of the virus and how to avoid becoming infected.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is sweeping through South and Central America. Its initial symptoms are mild. The main ones, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are “fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis” or red eyes. Severe cases can linger for up to a month and sometime send patients to the hospital.
The real threat, according to the CDC, seems to be a link between Zika and a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in which the baby’s head is unusually small “compared to babies of the same sex and age.” The defect has shown up in the babies of women infected with Zika during pregnancy.
“We’re doing everything we can to understand a little bit more about many of the basics — how often does it happen, what are the risk factors, are there certain things that make this transmission from pregnant women to babies more likely,” Dr. Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC, told VOA.
“Based on what we know of other infectious causes of congenital malformations, and also based on some preliminary information and what we know about when, during a pregnancy, the fetal brain develops, we think that it’s likely that the risk will be higher in the first trimester, and perhaps with decreasing risk as the pregnancy develops,” she added. “But we still do not have really good information about this.”
The World Health Association says the virus’ arrival in Brazil also has been associated with a rise there in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that can produce muscle weakness and even paralysis.
The 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.”
Likewise, the WHO says “a causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established but is strongly suspected.” It’s convening an emergency meeting Monday in Geneva on the virus.
The first case in South America was identified last May in Brazil. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly through most of Central and South America. Brazil’s health ministry recently reported more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly since October, compared with less than 150 in all of 2014, the Associated Press reported this week. So far more than 1 million cases of Zika have been reported in Brazil.
There is no vaccine or medical treatment currently available for Zika. The WHO and the CDC recommend rest, plenty of fluids and acetaminophen for fever and pain.
VOA contributed to this report.