MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Ending with a bang!

Kathryn McMahon

July 18, 2013

Tuesday was our last day in the field, and this was by far the best day to be a part of the vector group. We were able to fit in every last thing the group was hoping to experience. We started off by visiting a farm that had a cases of Equine Encephalitis last year. We were able to follow the vector professionals through what a normal inspection would look like. We helped identify possible vector sites. The farm was pretty much up to par, however we did find a few spots with standing water and trash build up.

Where things really started to get exciting was after the farm visit. We visited a community that the vector professionals classified as something equivalent to a ghetto. They explained that it was a very dangerous area, with high rates of poverty and violence. In this community we accompanied Dr. Vargas on his inspections of the mini supers in the community. These inspections are very similar, if not exactly the same, to those performed at restaurants and grocery stores by the FDA in the states. Dr. Vargas is in charge of inspecting any place that sells food products. In his district, he is responsible inspecting and monitoring over 325 sites that sell food products. We were able to shadow and participate in 2 inspections. These inspections come to the store owners as a surprise, and let me tell you… they were not happy to see us. It honestly saddened me to see the conditions of some of these stores and even worse, to see the community members having no other choice but to purchase food from these stores. One mini super we inspected had flies all over the meat, was storing raw meat in a broken freezer, had raw meat and cut fruits and vegetables stored in the same refrigerator, had rat feces all over the ground, and to top it off a dead mouse. Dr. Vargas wrote these stores a citation and presented them with a fine.

After the mini super inspections we went to a small community called Ma?anitas where there were two suspicious cases of Dengue. We learned that whenever there is either suspicious or confirmed cases of an infectious disease, the vector control team visits that community and fumigates the area surrounding the suspicious case. We were able to participate in this process and actually fumigate! It was so cool! While we were in the community fumigating, we got news from on of the community members that there was another baby who had broken out in to a bad rash and was sick. The vector team was able to track this mother down and give her information about visiting the health center and education about why it’s important. We later found out that the mother took her baby into the center the next day and the baby was diagnosed with a bacterial infection.

All in all this was an action packed day that allowed us to put into practice all that we had learned about the vector control team. I can honestly say that I am taking away from this trip more than I ever thought possible. I was given the opportunity to learn and put into practice things that I never would have thought twice about in the states. I am very grateful for this experience and it is one that I will carry with me forever.

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 »