In 2014 PAHO reported a 3 percent proportional mortality relative to infectious and parasitic diseases in Ecuador. However, in 2016 after an earthquake a noticeable spike in Zika and other vector-borne illnesses were observed; with a steady growth in population this a major concern.
It is two years post-earthquake and dengue is still on the rise.
So why am I here? Through a collaborative project with community members I am here as a volunteer with Walking Palms to conduct vector surveillance. Implementing citizen science, each one teaches one while working directly with Juanito and Leonela, two young adults in the Bellavista community in Bahia de Caraquez to assess abandoned homes for the presence of Aedes Aegypti mosquitos using adult and egg trapping techniques.
Training for BG Sentinel assembly as well as Ovitraps were very brief yet in-depth. We (my colleague Jake and I) were prepared for what would be foreseen as a wonderful experience in the field to ascertain the presence of our disease carrying critters as well as analyze our samples for the presence of Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, DENV, CHIKV and ZIKV.
The fun part!
BG traps were left in the field for a twenty-four hour period after which collections occurred. The little guys captured were stored in the cooler in my hand when their curiosity allowed them to donate themselves to science!
The last week has been amazing, we established our controls without a carbon source and have now been using a yeast mixture with sugar as its food source to generate carbon dioxide to attract mosquitos.
This has up to this point proven to be very effective in attracting them, today in particular while collecting the BG Sentinel traps Juanito was rudely attacked by an Aedes Aegypti scouring the area for her next blood meal! Vicious!
It's the middle of a new week and that is always great! Perfect weather conditions and the anticipation of surveilling three new houses. Boy has today proved to be very interesting! We got to the Leonela’s house and Juanito pointed to the BG traps with a surprised yet apprehensive look on his face, only to realize he was showing me that bees (las abejas) had engulfed las trampas, oh my!
Thankfully there’s another organization within Bahia de Caraquez rearing bees and were very enthusiastic to collect them. It turns out our sugar yeast mixtures were not only attracting mosquitos but also other frequent flyers within the vicinity!
The most difficult element in this wonderful experience is the language barrier. Juanito and Leonela are wonderful, they are patient and respond extremely well to my pointing and acting out scenes but it would be so much easier if my Spanish was better. The use of a translation app is also helpful so our conservations are evolving. Still, I am extremely grateful for the responses from the community! They too, much like Juanito and Leonela are more than willing to engage in conservations with me even though most of the time they probably equate my conservational Spanish with that of a four-year-old, yet we exchange and I'm grateful.
Its humbling to have myself come from a developing nation and to be here working in Bellavista Ecuador post-earthquake. I know too well the effects of a natural disaster on communities having experienced a plethora of hurricanes in my lifetime.
To date, my only regret is that butterfly that was captured in a trap and was also sacrificed in the name of science.