Wednesday, August 17, 2011

dengue fever

The above photos were taken a couple of blocks from my house; it is the backside of a public school.   There has been an increase in cases of hemorrhagic dengue (which can be fatal) in Panama this year.  The number of reported cases varies between sources and honestly I have very little faith in the health authorities to count and report accurately.  My husband was diagnosed with dengue a couple of months ago, but the doctor didn't actually do a blood test to confirm it so I'm sure it wasn't reported to health officials.  I'm guessing the numbers we are seeing reported are low.  In any case, the outbreak has resulted in a great deal of public discussion about garbage, which is a serious problem in this city.

There are much uglier examples of heaps of garbage that I could have used to illustrate this post (we drove through 'El 24' last week and yikes!).  But the above garbage makes me angrier than most of the other garbage.  Yesterday, public health officials exhorted the population to get rid of sites condusive to mosquito breeding.  There has been a wide program of fumigation all over the city.  Meanwhile, trash is being thrown over the wall at a public school.

My kids' study the Panamanian curriculum in social studies.  The same text books are used in the whole country.  Last week my second grader was studying "the rainy season."  A big part of the unit on the rainy season was about garbage, and how important it is to deal with garbage responsibly because of dengue and as a cause of flooding (trash plugging storm drains).  This is taught in the second grade all over the country including the school in the above picture.  It seems incredibly ineffective to teach kids that they need to deal with garbage responsibly when the school itself does not.  Not even mentioning the fact that they are breeding mosquitos behind their school.

I don't know what it will take to get people to smarten up about garbage.  The municipalities have a lot of room for improvement in the area of garbage collection.  But people also really have to stop throwing garbage over walls, and into creeks, and on empty lots.  Hopefully this current outbreak of dengue opens  people's eyes.

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