Measles in Costa RicaThe ninth century marked the first diagnosed case of measles globally. Since then, innumerable cases of measles have been reported across the world, including Costa Rica.

What is Measles?

Measles is viral and highly contagious. An issue surrounding the spread of measles is the length of time between contraction of the virus and the first signs of symptoms. After infection, symptoms are not necessarily present for an additional week or two. Astonishingly, the virus can survive in the air for two to four hours after a cough or sneeze by someone infected by it. Thus, the transmission of measles is enabled in places even when the person is no longer there.

At first, many of the symptoms of measles could be mistaken for a cold: fever, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes. However, running an especially high fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is an indicator of measles. Additionally, the associated rash is incredibly troublesome. Fevers spike according to the severity of the rash.

Over many years, measles has been problematic for countries across the globe. One such country that has faced an ongoing battle with measles is Costa Rica.

History of Measles in Costa Rica

  • In 1967, Costa Rica implemented its first measles vaccination program. For approximately 10 years, the number of diagnosed cases of measles decreased. However, in 1977 there was an outbreak of the disease.
  • Following the 1977 epidemic, further programs were instituted with the goal of preventing another outbreak. Yet, another outbreak occurred in 1979. These new cases were primarily found in children too young to receive the vaccine in accordance with the program; they were under the age of 1.
  • In 1983, 90 percent of children over the age of 2 were vaccinated for measles. The country continued in its mission to eradicate measles in Costa Rica.
  • The last native case of measles was in 2006. Since 2014, when the last imported case was diagnosed, there had been no new cases of measles.
  • Concern arose during 2018 that imported cases of measles would arise, due to the number of cases in Europe and the United States. Due to travel and tourism, the number of reported cases of measles in Latin America had increased. Luckily, no new cases were reported for five years. However, 2019 has seen the reintroduction of measles to Costa Rica.

Recent Cases of Measles in Costa Rica

As of January 2019, Costa Rica continued providing vaccinations for children ranging from 15 months old to 9 years old. However, this vaccination program did not prove wholly successful.

On February 18, 2019 measles was reintroduced to Costa Rica. A young child from France, with classmates that had measles, came to Costa Rica on vacation with his family. The boy developed a rash and was seen by a local doctor. He tested positive for measles.

The Costa Rican Ministry of Health is taking preventative measures to ensure that this possible outbreak is contained. The family was placed in isolation at a hospital because neither the mother nor son had been vaccinated for measles. Additionally, the Costa Rican Ministry of Health has contacted those who were on the same inbound flight and in the same hotels as the family to hinder the spread of measles.

Hopefully, with such plans in place and the measures taken to protect others, measles will be contained. Due to fast action by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, the spread of measles is likely to be reduced with this new, introduced case.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to 4.98 million people, with the second-highest per capita income in Central America, after Panama. Innovative initiatives like CCSS, a national health care system, not supporting a military since 1949, relying heavily on renewable energy and preserving natural land sets the country apart. Costa Rica’s spends almost 20 percent of GDP on social programs in an effort to meet their goals established in the 1970s of universal education, health care, clean water, sanitation and electricity.

The consistent political stability also distinguishes Costa Rica from neighbors in Central America. This context has produced measurable growth in health outcomes and reduced mortality. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Costa Rica highlight the impacts of Costa Rica’s policies.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Costa Rica

  1. On average, life expectancy is slightly greater for Costa Ricans (79.8 years) than for U.S. citizens (78.6 years). In addition, Costa Rica ranks 29th in terms of longevity in the world.
  2. In Costa Rica, women live longer than men. According to WHO data published in 2018, Costa Rican men live on average to 77, while women on average to 82.2. Costa Rican women edge out men in terms of lung cancer and heart disease mortality but are at greater risk of stroke, external injuries and chronic respiratory diseases.
  3. Infant mortality has fallen since the 1960s.Primary health care—especially in rural and community programs — seems to be responsible for 40 percent of the reduction…” from 68/1,000 to 20/1.000 in the 1970s to 5.7/1,000 in 2018.
  4. The top 10 causes of death in Costa Rica mirror wealthier countries. These are as follows:
    • Cancer – 20 percent
    • Heart Disease – 16 percent
    • Stroke – 7 percent
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – 5 percent
    • Chronic Kidney Disease – 4 percent
    • Road Injuries – 4 percent
    • Cirrhosis – 4 percent
    • Lower Respiratory Infections – 3 percent
    • Diabetes -3 percent
    • Interpersonal Violence – 2 percent
  5. Road traffic fatalities are an epidemic in Costa Rica. According to 2017 WHO data, 13.9 per thousand people die in traffic accidents. Epidemiological data suggests that younger drivers, faster roads, motorcycle lane changing and the growing pains that occur as rural people struggle to walk to work and school on faster, newly-paved roads—are all contributing factors. Although international NGO’s concerned with road safety recommend systemic approach uniting business, education and policy approaches, Costa Rica is working toward greater road safety with policies like requiring reflective tape on garments and state-sponsored vehicle insurance.
  6. Increases in life expectancy at birth between 1990 and 2015 grew, but unevenly across the 79 counties. Socioeconomic growth and decreasing fertility have contributed to increasing life expectancy. Average births per mother have fallen from about seven in the 1960s to 3.5 in the early 1980s to below replacement level (2) today. Access to medical care varies from rural to urban locations.
  7. Physicians are fairly accessible in Costa Rica with 1.15 physicians per thousand people—among the highest in Central America. Only Panama (1.59) and El Salvador (1.92) have higher ratios. The overall high-quality medical infrastructure in Costa Rica has birthed a growing, medical tourism industry, providing more low- and high-skilled jobs.
  8. Caja Costarrisence Seguro Social (CCSS) is the national health care agency. Funded by a 15 percent payroll tax, luxury goods taxes and retirement savings, the CCSS mandates free health service to all categories of citizens: wage-earners, mothers, children, indigenous people, the elderly and people living with disabilities, regardless of insurance coverage.
  9. Incidents of parasite-borne diseases like Malaria Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus, Chagas Disease and Zika rise seasonally but generally are on the decline. Vaccinations, insect eradication programs and education in how to avoid getting sick are working to stem the growth of arboviruses. The International Emerging Infections Program in Central America and Panama (IEIP-CAR) begun a program in 2007 to respond to new infectious disease threats by supporting the Ministries of Health (MoHs). Communicable-disease mortality declined from 65 per 100,000 in 1990 to 4.2 per 100,000 in 2010.
  10. The Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica boasts some of the highest life expectancy rates for men in the world. “For a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater.” This advantage is not the case for women. Lower levels of cardiovascular risk, being lean and tall, eating an abundant diet of traditional foods low in the glycemic index but high in fiber and accessible health care are all possible contributing factors.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Costa Rica paint the government as a nimble in its ability to enact policies that meet needs and consistently build better health outcomes for their people.

– Heather Hughes
Photo: Flickr