Friday, September 19, 2014

A Sweaty Trek to Fight Dengue

"This week, three of my classmates and I were assigned to the work with a guest professor for this semester's very first Faculty Led Project! On Tuesday, our entire class met our new professor to learn a little more about the research topic, "Knowledge, attitude and practices associated with dengue infection in the rural community of La Trinidad, Sarapiqui." Our project consisted of traveling to the local rural community of La Trinidad to do a house-to-house campaign that would collect data regarding the local knowledge of dengue fever. This is where the "knowledge, attitude, and practices (KAP)" aspect comes into play. Our voluntary, anonymous, verbal survey asked questions that tested their knowledge about dengue symptoms and transmission, test their attitude towards preventing and combating dengue in their community, and finally test their knowledge of practices that can be done to prevent dengue. Once we practiced explaining and giving the survey, our class got crafty and created dengue mosquito traps out of recycled empty plastic soda bottles. We worked quickly and diligently. We rapidly perfected the process of cutting off the top fourth of the bottle, wrapping the main body of the bottle with black plastic, and then inverting the top back into the bottle. The bottle must be filled with a smelly mixture of warm water, brown sugar and yeast that serves to produce carbon dioxide which then attracts and traps mosquitoes inside. We learned how to explain this process in Spanish to offer these little experiments to each community member after giving the survey.

The next morning, Wednesday morning, the nerves were setting in of approaching and speaking with community members as complete strangers. Not to mention we looked like aliens to the area in our outfits of pants and long-sleeved shirts to prevent mosquito bites while the locals lounged in tank tops and shorts because of the blistering heat. We worked in groups of four students to orally give the survey. I was quickly surprised by the willingness of the community to work with us. I'll have to get used to these small moments of culture shock. In the span of 3 hours, every inhabitant of the 17 different households my group reached calmly agreed to our 10-minute spiel. In the United States, it seems as if we are constantly pressed for time. A 10-minute survey would likely seem like an eternity to an American. On a weekday, forget about it. This different perception of time was suddenly crystal clear. But my goodness, the community was very knowledgeable about dengue. Question after question, the majority of people knew all the dengue symptoms, knew what the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue looks like, and knew how to prevent dengue mosquitoes from biting. It was interesting to note that the majority of the community members believed that this is a problem that every community member must help to fight against. But some of the minimal living conditions we saw made it clear that this is no easy task. How do you fight a mosquito borne illness when several houses don't have windows to keep mosquitoes out in the first place? By the end of our sweaty labor, our overall group of 12 students in the field completed 50 questionnaires in the community that Wednesday morning. Back at the station, while in inputting our newly attained data into an excel spreadsheet; we had a clashing but fruitful discussion about the validity of some of our data. Some groups explained some questions differently so we wondered if this would affect the response that was received. Through our first-handed experiences we removed and edited questions that we all believed clearly caused confusion. All in all, this was the first time we were truly pushed outside our language barrier comfort zone. Performing community research first-hand made us truly see how the manner, the attitude, the fluency of the language of the surveyor, and many more factors can affect the data we receive. This only made more excited to work with and improve future community campaigns!
Jocelyn Vargas

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