Are Costa Rica’s Hot Springs Safe?

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Floating on your back or dipping the your head underwater are common actions when enjoying a natural hot spring. However, experts now recommend not submerging your face or head in order to prevent infections that can enter these more vulnerable cavities.

    This recommendation stems from the case of Jordan Cole Smelski, an American 11 year-old boy, who died in July in Orlando, Florida, due to an infection resulting from the amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The deceased boy was on vacation in Costa Rica, where he visited the hot springs in the Northern Zone and began to feel sick afterwards and never recovered.

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    “It is vital that swimmers wear nose plugs when swimming in fresh water if immersed because of the sediment that exists in the depths. You need to keep your head above water in the thermals or other waters such as ponds or lakes,” said Maria Luisa Avila, infectious disease expert at the National Children’s Hospital (HNN).

    Otherwise, ensure that the water in a pool has good chlorination is another recommendation by the specialist. It should be noted that this type of amoeba, which triggers an inflammation of the meninges (connective tissue in the brain), is sensitive to chlorine.

    “These free-living amoebae are present in many places. Basically they like temperate waters, but they can tolerate temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius, because what they do is crystallize in order to survive. They are usually in stagnant water, however, it can be found in moving water as well,” said the specialist.

    Indeed, in mid-July there was also a child around nine years old who died in Kansas, United States, after contracting an infection from Naegleria fowleri. According to American media, she liked extreme sports, such as windsurfing, in freshwater.

    “Regarding the case of Jordan Smelski, the possibility is that he was infected elsewhere. Yet another possibility is that his immune system had not been functioning well, because many people are exposed and do not get sick,” said Avila.

    It also coincided with the recommendation that people visiting hot springs not dip below the water. In turn, it’s said that in the case of the deceased child it will be difficult to determine whether he contracted the infection in the country, because in the area where he lived in the USA there are also cases of the amoeba.

    So in conclusion, yes, Costa Rica’s hot springs are safe.  But it’s safer to keep your head above the water.

    “We recommend if people are going to these waters to not submerge their heads because the amoeba is a protozoan, which enters the nose and can cause an inflammation of the coverings of the brain, the meninges,” said Avila.

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

    San Jose, Costa Rica

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