In less than a month, the new COVID-19 could be detected in the country without the need for the sample to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States.

The Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (Inciensa) – Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health – is in charge of processing samples and will soon be able to locally do the test to diagnose if a person has the new coronavirus COVID-19. Photo: Jonathan Jiménez Flores

Daniel Salas, Minister of Health, confirmed that they have already requested the specific test to be sent to Costa Rica and that it will arrive between the end of February and the beginning of March.

By the time the test arrives, a microbiologist from the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (Incense), who will receive training at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), will be able to conduct and analyze tests here.

The Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method widely used in molecular biology to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample allowing scientists to take a very small sample of DNA and amplify it to a large enough amount to study in detail. PCR was invented in 1983 by Kary Mullis.

Salas said that the PCR is so good that it will hardly be necessary to send samples to the CDC, it would be so only in specific cases.

How would a case of suspected coronavirus be managed in Costa Rica?

SOURCE: NATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR THE MONITORING OF INFECTION WITH CORONAVIRUS. ||  J.C. / La Nacion

The Ministry of Health says there have been no suspicious cases as such in Costa Rica.

For a person to be considered a suspect, not only are symptoms of a respiratory illness enough. In addition, he or she would have to have returned from China 14 days or less before the onset of symptoms, or had to be in contact with someone who did have COVID-19.

The Ministry has followed up what it calls “incidents”, cases that could be suspicious but are discarded by not meeting the definition of a suspect case. So far, 17 people have been known to have been in China and had some type of respiratory infection.

All cases have already been ruled out, as initial tests (not specific to COVID-19) indicated that they were infections of other viruses.

What is done in these situations? Persons remain isolated for 14 days under a CCSS disability and the Ministry of Health records their evolution. Once the quarantine time has passed, they return to their normal life.

The relatives of these individuals are not isolated and can go about their normal life outside the home, but they must keep distance with the person in quarantine and use masks if they are nearby.