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QCOSTARICA = Although the Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud) is confident the AH1N11 influenza and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) will end before the start of the school year next month, the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) remains an active protocol against infectious diseases.

“They are measures based on the recommendations of the Caja (Costa Rican Social Security Fund, CCSS) and the Ministry of Health. Mainly it is to remind students, parents and educators how to wash their hands, how to sneeze or cough and measures to be taken by each school, ” said Rosa Adolio, director of Programs at the MEP.

“If a case of influenza present in a student after the school year starts, we will immediately call the parents,” said Adolio.

Health authorities have confirmed 14 deaths, as of Wednesday, from the AH1N1 virus since December in Costa Rica is 14, and to date,  31 hospitalized in five hospitals, mainly in the San Carlos Hospital in the northern zone.

According to Minister of Health, Fernando Llorca, included in the deaths is that of a child and a tourist from India, whose case weas confirmed in the influenza reference laboratory located in the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud – Inciensa).

“The  no cause for alarm in the country,” said Maria del Rocio Saenz, president of the CCSS. “There are no signs that the virus is changing or becoming a new one, as happened in 2009” Saenz said.

The CCSS head advised against causing “fear” among the public since the country is not facing an epidemic and “this is not the time for vaccinations. People are spending money and will have a false sense of security,” said Saenz.

The CCSS chief says any vaccine applied now will not provide protection, since the new vaccine for 2016 will not arrive in the country until March.

Costa Rica provides free vaccination to all contributors of the CCSS, with the purchase of 950,000 doses. The vaccine, once in the country will also be available at private pharmacies for purchase.

“People should know that if they are vaccinated now, the body will require at least six weeks to develop immunity, so the vaccine is not going to serve to progress against the circulating virus,” Llorca said.

Mario Cruz Penate, acting representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said that there is no evidence that the virus is behaving differently.