Alert – Malaria in Costa Rica

Warning – Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel

Alert – Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions

Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

What is malaria?

Malaria is a disease spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms usually appear within 7 to 30 days following a bite but can take up to a year to develop. Symptoms include high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Without treatment, malaria can cause severe illness and even death.

Key Points

  • A case of malaria has been reported in a US traveler who visited the Osa Peninsula in Puntarenas Province. This is an area where malaria is not typically found.
  • Travelers to the Osa Peninsula should get medicine to prevent malaria before travel and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites during travel.
  • Travelers to Costa Rica should also be aware that other areas of the country have had outbreaks in the past, and should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites in those areas listed below.

What is the current situation?

A case of malaria was reported in a US traveler who had returned from the Osa Peninsula in Puntarenas Province in Costa Rica. The Osa Peninsula had not previously been considered an area with malaria.

Malaria is rarely found in Costa Rica. The last outbreak was in 2017, when malaria was reported in Matina Canton in Limón Province, Sarapiquí Canton in Heredia Province, and Pital District in San Carlos Canton in Alajuela Province.

What can travelers do to prevent malaria?

Travelers to the Osa Peninsula in Puntarenas Province should take medicine to prevent malaria. Talk with a doctor or nurse about medicine to prevent malaria before leaving the United States.

Because malaria is spread by mosquitoes, travelers should also prevent mosquito bites during travel by:

  • Using insect repellent when outside
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants when outside
  • Sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room or under an insecticide-treated bed net

Learn more about malaria, how to prevent it, and what to do if you think you are infected, at CDC’s malaria page for travelers.

Traveler Information 

Clinician Information

Source: Travel Health

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