A migrant's death from the AH1N1 influenza virus has alarmed authorities in Panama, where nearly 1,000 Cubans are stranded near the border with Costa Rica.
According to Panama's health ministry, a 53-year-old migrant was admitted to a hospital near the border with Costa Rica on Saturday and died the next day of "severe respiratory problems" linked to the virus popularly known as swine flu.
Two other Cubans admitted at the same time with similar symptoms are under special supervision but both are said to be in stable conditions.
MINSA confirma cubano que falleció en hospital Regional tenia AH1N1; incrementa acciones epidemiológicas en frontera pic.twitter.com/4s9zsvvH3O— Demetrio Ábrego S. (@deme507abrego) January 5, 2016
“The Cuban Ministry of Health have confirmed that a Cuban man died of the AH1N1 virus; increased border epidemiological actions”
Following the death, Panamanian health authorities conducted checks of sanitary conditions faced by the hundreds of Cuban stuck on the border, which Costa Rica since Dec. 19 has refused to allow them to cross.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement Tuesday it has "strengthened health teams and surveillance" of the stranded migrants.
Local reports say the migrants have also been receiving vaccinations in order to control any further outbreaks of the flu strain.
Some 8,000 Cubans are currently in Costa Rica unable to reach their preferred destination, the United States, after neighboring Nicaragua prevented them from passing through its territory.
In December 2015 several Central American nations reached an agreement to have dozens of the Cubans flown from Costa Rica to El Salvador. The first flight from Costa Rica to El Salvador is scheduled to leave Jan. 12 the Costa Rican foreign minister, Manuel Gonzalez, said Wednesday.
Around 180 people will be able to catch the flight to El Salvador on Tuesday evening, where they will then be provided ground transportation to the Guatemala-Mexico border, Gonzalez said.
Subsequent flights from Costa Rica will depend on the success of this one, the ministry told Reuters.
According to the World Health Organization, the influenza AH1N1 virus first emerged in 2009 and swept across Central America and the Caribbean, killing 237 in the region that year.
Infants, the elderly and individuals with weak immune systems are particularly susceptible to infection. The World Health Organization advises people to avoid crowded places and contact with people suffering from a cold, cough, flu or other respiratory infections in areas where the virus is present.
Since 2009 there has been an improvement in vaccines available to help control the spread of the virus.
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