Central America is in the early stages of responding to the threat posed by H1N1 flu that has affected Mexico and the U.S., according to Noticen.
The region is on alert, with El Salvador appearing to have taken the most decisive measures so far. President Antonio Saca has declared a state of emergency. The decree permits the Ministry of Health to request funds from the treasury to obtain medications and make whatever other expenditures it deems necessary to prevent and treat.
Saca said he had ordered the treasury to stand ready to make the disbursements and also to provide personnel to observe people entering the country for signs of the disease. Also, pork imports from the U.S., Mexico and Canada have been suspended.
Interrupting commercial flows is a sensitive measure, so Agriculture Minister Mario Salaverria quickly went public to announce: "It is a temporary measure. We must have clarity where and how this problem originated, how this virus is transmitted to humans. It is a precautionary measure we have taken."
He explained that it was not El Salvador's idea, and it was not alone in doing it. He said it was a joint decision of agriculture ministers of the isthmus at an April 24 meeting.
El Salvador normally imports about 69,000 kg of pork a month from the U.S. and Mexico. Salaverria said that supplies on hand were sufficient to avoid shortages and that domestically grown pigs are constantly monitored and are disease free.
Nicaragua also suspended pork and pig imports but very quickly reinstated pork products other than live pigs, even though, according to an official, Nicaragua does not import live pigs from Mexico.
The region's health ministers met in Managua April 28 to agree on an emergency plan. The ministers decided upon health decrees like the one Saca issued, as well as monitoring and mass prevention campaigns.
They also contributed to a regional-impact analysis, given the particular vulnerabilities occasioned by poverty and scarce resources. Prevention campaigning involved the media in region-wide messages with recommendations and instructions for personal and collective hygienic practices, and explanations of facts concerning the disease.
In Costa Rica there was one confirmed cases of H1N1 which had arrived by air from Mexico.