This has been an interesting first week in Iquitos. We have begun working in collaboration with Dr. Amy Morrison (UC Davis) who has been in Iquitos studying dengue and Aedes aegypti for 14 years. We were joined in Iquitos by four Peruvian students, three from Lima or surrounding areas, one from Iquitos. There has been some very interesting bilingual communication happening in our activities. I’m very glad their English is much better than my Spanish! I learned some very important differences between “muerta de hambre” and “muerta de hombre,” as well as “café pasado” and “café pescado.” Use Google translate for some nice humor.
Friday, Fred honored me with the “award” (an IOU for a pisco sour) of most improved mosquito larvae counter! But there’s lots of room for improvement when the starting point is pitiful; little do my colleagues know that was my strategy all along. 😉 We have begun an experiment involving breeding mosquitos in six different local homes. Amy’s team placed buckets in these homes 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 week before we arrived, and we placed differing amounts of aegypti larvae in each of these buckets on Wednesday (7/25). Very simply put, our question is how much detritus is needed to maximize aegypti larvae growth, and what amount of larvae is needed to maximize growth? (The idea is that they will not reach adulthood before the experiments ends, so there is no risk of infecting these homes with aegypti. We have kept netting over the buckets to keep the level of detritus under control, and to keep any potential adults from getting out.) The participant homes have been very generous in letting us in their homes every other day for about 1 hour at a time to count larvae. In our evening discussions, Amy has told us that many people in Iquitos are more than generous in allowing her team in their homes in an effort to control dengue (but not all, as I witnessed myself!).
Between larvae counts, we made visits to two health clinics, one urban clinic in Iquitos, the other on a nearby island in the small community of Padre Coche. I was surprised to see that the bigger concerns in both of these clinics seem to be pregnancies, and in the case of the urban clinic, deliveries. In Padre Coche, the doctors we spoke with said that they do not have a problem with dengue fever, but rather malaria. It was a humbling experience to see that each of these clinics only owned one microsope, and the rural clinic had been out of electricity since December. The doctors in the rural clinic also described to us their intense efforts to keep malaria under control in their community, sometimes involving up to three hours of walking in an outbreak.