MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Last day in the field

Joanna Filopoulos

July 16, 2013

Today was our last day in the field with the vector group. We first went to a farm to see a man previous groups have visited, he has had issues in the past with equine encephalitis. He owns a horse, and many cattle which he butchers for meat. The property he owns is very large and difficult to maintain. As we walked around his property we saw standing water with mosquitoes flying around. Our experts told us that this type of mosquito is called coolex which carry the encephalitis virus. Any bottles or containers with water we turned over and took note of to reinforce the idea that standing water breeds mosquitoes. The horse seemed healthy at a glance. It was the man’s work horse that he used to do work around the house like rounding up cattle. Today the horse was to be vaccinated. Panamanians vaccinate their dogs, before their own children! This sentiment has been repeated many times by the vector group as well as people from the clinic. Although children under the age of one get all of their shots, when they grow older to are lost to follow up. This is one of the biggest public health problems the country faces. The vet was kind enough to stay and answer any vaccination questions we had.

After visiting the farm, we continued our day by stopping by some local markets to check on the sanitation. One of our guides, Jaime, is a sanitation expert and one of his jobs is to go to these markets to make sure the food is safe for the public to be consuming. Both of the markets we visited were in bad condition. Some of the issues we saw were rat droppings, a dirty cutting board, temperature of the meat cooler was not cool enough, vegetables were in the same space as the meat, etc. The list went on and on. These markets receive a fine and have 30 days to fix the problems stated. If they do not they can be closed.

The very last stop on our trip was to a community near the clinic that has one case of dengue and a few suspected cases. Since the number of cases has risen, the team decided to fumigate the houses and surrounding area where the mosquitoes could be in order to kill them and prevent an epidemic. We each took turns putting the machine on our shoulder and fumigating the brush around the houses. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

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 »