Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Day In La Trinidad

We stepped onto the bus one by one, clad in our long sleeve shirts and field pants with clipboards in hand. The bus smelled of bug spray and sunscreen as we pulled out of the La Selva gates and headed for La Trinidad. In class, over the past three weeks, we had been learning about a disease common to many tropical countries around the world called dengue. This disease has become particularly common amongst many of the small communities in Costa Rica. Anyone living in communities such as La Trinidad is at risk of contracting dengue, for the mosquitoes that carry the virus have no age or gender preference. These nasty little white-stripped mosquitoes can cause a lot of pain and even in some cases death. However dengue can be prevented, it is just a matter of becoming educated on the disease and putting what you know into practice. Our mission for the day was to test the community's knowledge and observe their practices. We split into our groups and scattered in various directions, each set of four surveyors making their way down one of the dirt-paved streets of La Trinidad. My group made it to the end of our street where we stopped in front of a wooden house. 'Upe' 'Buenas' we hollered from outside the home. A man opened the door wearing only a pair of athletic shorts, a common trend we would come to find in the community. We told him we were students from OET and asked if he wouldn't mind answering a couple questions about dengue. As he agreed his wife appeared in the doorway helping her son mount his bicycle and take off down the street. We started by asking his age and level of education, as we did with every survey, and then continued on to the dengue questions. These questions were designed to test the community member's knowledge, attitude, and practices all in regard to the dengue virus. We started off by asking the man whether he had ever had dengue, he responded no, so we continued on with questions aimed at gauging his knowledge of the symptoms of dengue. There were a couple symptoms that he was confidant were side effects of dengue, but for the most part seemed unsure. We furthered tested his knowledge by asking questions such as 'what time of night do the mosquitoes that transmit dengue bite' this question seem to have stumped the man as it did many of the other community members. Most people answered that they bite at night, very few responded with the correct answer of early in the morning and again at dusk. As tiny beads of sweat began to form on our brows we moved to the second part of the survey, attitude. As I mentioned previously dengue can be prevented, and the way to do this is by not giving the mosquitoes a place to breed. These crafty little mosquitoes can lay their eggs in any sort of standing water, so anything from a tire to an empty coconut. Unfortunately, these are things commonly found in yards of these communities. So the questions regarding attitude asked things such as whether they believed it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to prevent dengue. Much to my surprise and delight everyone we interviewed answered no, it was not the Ministries responsibility it was theirs and their neighbors. And finally as our clothing became a strange pattern of blotchy sweat patches we asked the man our final set of questions. These focused on practices, what sort of things was he doing to prevent the spread of dengue.  For the most part the man knew what sort of things he should be doing to stop the mosquitoes from multiplying. However, as we thanked our first participant and headed off through his yard to his neighbor's house we spotted many empty coconuts and open containers filled with rainwater. This was something we found at many of the homes we visited. After our 18th house we made our way back to the bus exhausted and drenched in sweat, but most importantly we headed back to La Selva with a feeling of accomplishment. The number of dengue cases in La Trinidad can be diminished; it is just a matter of relaying important information and reminding people to put their knowledge into practice.

Emily Becker 

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