Monday, September 15, 2014

Dengue Wars Episode V: The Mariposas Strike Back

​Anne Boldt

Dengue Wars Episode V: The Mariposas Strike Back

            With the scorching sun blazing overhead, sweat slowly dripping down our faces, and, for one of us, resisting the urge to answer nature’s pressing call, we made our way through the streets of La Trinidad, Sarapiquí. The Mariposas, our group of five brilliant female scientists, led by the infamous Pia Paaby-Hansen, set out on a mission—a mission to gather data about the villainous, mosquito-borne dengue disease.
As scientists and Global Health enthusiasts, we were determined to understand the correlation between knowledge about dengue and the likelihood of suffering through the dangerous disease. Some may ask, why would the renowned Mariposas be involved in such a study? Well, it just so happens that there were almost 50,000 cases of dengue in Costa Rica in 20131, with a recent major outbreak in La Trinidad, and though it may not always be a killer, it can be prevented with the help of community and individual activism. It also meant that we could valiantly fight dengue one household at a time.
            As excited as we were about our endeavors to collect data, tensions arose as we approached the first house. Though we were accompanied by the expertise and fluency of our leader Pia, the rest of the Mariposas couldn’t help but feel a little nervous as we were about to explain an informed consent wavier, a three-page survey, and how to construct a home-made mosquito snare solely in Spanish. Nevertheless, our determination to destroy dengue overpowered our nerves.
            “¡Upé! ¡Buenas!” We called as we neared the neatly manicured lawn. A few moments later, a woman stepped outside. Following a short introduction and the granting of permission, it was our time to take the lead. I confidently went up and began reading the consent form. Unfortunately, during my stumbled and muffled explanation, Pia had to take over to clarify what exactly we were doing. Though the rest of my group finished the interview stupendously well, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and conquered. Fortunately, the rest of the Mariposas encouraged me and we still had plenty of houses to visit where I was ready to face the language barrier to defeat dengue.
            At the next house, it was my turn to do the bulk of the talking—explaining the survey which would assess the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of the community members in regards to dengue. As my cohorts introduced us and we were given consent, I took a deep breath and began to explain the questions in the survey and the types of responses we were looking for. In just a few minutes, and to my surprise, I was able to competently complete the survey with the community member; in fact, we even got a little chatty during the interview. After my fellow Mariposa explained how to create a homemade mosquito trap, we ventured on to eight more houses in the allotted time.
            When we finally returned to La Selva, feeling famished, dehydrated, and yet giddy about our accomplishments, we gathered our data and scored the surveys using a point system. Each correct answer was given a positive score and the scores in each subsequent category were compared to factors such as age, gender, and education levels. Though the statistical evaluation of the data did not show any significant trends, the work we had done was a gateway to future, more in-depth studies to be done in Costa Rica to bring us all closer to defeating the menacing dengue disease.
            Despite the lack of statistical results we were hoping for, we are still determined to defeat dengue, even if we have to dump water out of one coconut at a time.

Photo credit: Kelsey Sumner                                                              Sources: 1.

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