MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Case study – Dengue

Joanna Filopoulos

July 12, 2013

Today the vector group went to a community called mananita. Our guides wanted us to see an example of how community mobilization can turn a problems such as lack of clean drinking water, into a well organized business. 

In the past, the community had no method of getting water from the local river through pipes and into their homes. There was no system in place so the locals had to get bottled water brought in from the government once a week. This was not always a reliable system and many times the community was without water. Our guide Francisco, the sanitation expert, showed us the water system the community built together. The system uses chemicals such as chlorine to purify the water as well as materials such as sand to remove particles. This community is one example of how vital organization and teamwork are to the success of local projects. By working together, the community was able to fix one of their biggest problems together. This type of teamwork, Francisco says, is not common in Panama vs other Latin American countries. 
One of the most interesting experiences our group has had so far is to interview a case of dengue. A woman in the 24 de diciembre community had fallen ill and had gone to the clinic where our vector guides are based. When the test came back positive for dengue, our guides were notified immediately and treatment was started. Dengue has no cure or vaccine. It is caused by a mosquito called Aedes Albopictus which feeds in the morning and at night during certain hours. The woman was sweating and lethargic. She was scratching her body constantly, an effect of the parasite in her blood stream. What stood out from our interview was the lack of knowledge of disease prevention. The woman asked what the sign and symptoms of the disease are, when the mosquitos feed, and what they could do to prevent it. Our guides informed the woman and her family that wearing long sleeves, using a bed net, would be good preventative steps. In order to prevent further cases, the woman was informed that she is a carrier and should stay indoors as much as possible. The lack of knowledge of disease prevention in rural communities is an enormous problem that our group will try to tackle over the next week as we work with our guides to create materials useful for the community.

About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »