Costa Rica Hit With First Measles Case In 5 Years Due To Unvaccinated Tourist

An unvaccinated French boy vacationing with his parents is believed to have brought measles to Costa Rica, which had been free of the disease since 2014.

The 5-year-old and his parents, who were not identified, arrived in Costa Rica on Feb. 18, according to a statement from the country’s Ministry of Health.

The child’s mother, who also was not vaccinated, brought the boy to see a private doctor when he started showing signs of a rash, The Costa Rica Star reported. The doctor did a blood analysis and found the child tested positive for measles. His parents also confirmed with the boy’s school in France that other students had contracted the disease.

The boy was quarantined at the Puntarenas Hospital, the Ministry of Health said. Authorities began contacting people he may have exposed to the virus, including fellow passengers on his Feb. 18 Air France flight to Costa Rica and guests at the hotels where he and his parents stayed.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads through the air. It can cause fever, runny nose and a rash of small, red bumps that spread over the entire body.

The disease is easily preventable with the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children receive two doses of the vaccine, first at 12 to 15 months of age and then at 4 to 6 years of age. Two doses of the vaccine are roughly 97 percent effective at preventing measles, according to the CDC.

Costa Rica has not had any native cases of measles since 2006, according to the Ministry of Health. The last imported case of the disease was reported in 2014.

Recent outbreaks of measles in the United States and Europe have sparked outrage toward parents who choose not to immunize their children. 

The World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of 10 major threats to global health in 2019.

“Measles, for example, has seen a 30% increase in cases globally,” the WHO said in a January report. “The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy. However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.”

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