In order to better explain what´s going on in my site, I´m going to back up and give an overview of the water collection system. It´s something that you get so used to around here that you forget how odd it would seem if you had never lived in a place where you couldn´t open your faucet any time of the day, any day of the week and expect water to fall.
Outside of the capital, it is rare that people have access to water all of the time. A lot of people in the rural areas still have to leave their home to wash in the river and collect drinking water. In fact, my community only installed a water project within the last few years. The source will dry up, though, if everybody´s allowed to have water all day, so water is released at a certain time of the day. It comes for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of year, with more coming now because it´s rainy season. You collect the water in bottles to drink and cook, and the rest falls in whatever receptacle you have (i.e. barrels or pilas, which are like big cement blocks) for washing. This of course solves the problem of not having water available all day, but creates other problems. The big one? Mosquitos. Mosquitos lay their eggs in still water. Plus it´s raining now, so all that inorganic trash is also collecting water.
Until recently, the Ministry of Health bought a type of powdered pesticide that they gave to the health promotors to distribute so that people could put it in their barrels or pila to kill the mosquito larvae, but this year they decided it was up to every family to maintain their pila/barrel clean. It sucks, but at the same time, the pesticide wasn´t 100% effective, and it only kills the larvae, so any more developed mosquitos require fumigation. So what are your options? You can keep fish in there, which eat the larvae. You can keep your water covered when you´re not using it. You can also scrub your receptacle every week with bleach.
So do people do that? Honestly, not many. A lot of them just complain that the ministry isn´t buying the pesticide powder anymore. Where does that leave us in my community? Four confirmed cases of dengue and at least seven more suspected, and all this in a community that hasn´t seen a case in three years.
What´s dengue? It´s a virus spread by a certain type of mosquito (not the same that carries malaria). It´s characterized by fever, headache, joint pain, and rash. There are two main types, classic and hemorrhagic, both of which include four strains, so in theory, if you were really unlucky, you could get dengue a total of eight times in your life. There is no vaccine, only prevention. For the past week, my health promotor and professionals from the public health clinic in my municipality have been working in my community to contain the outbreak. They´ve fumigated every house twice and will do a third round on Thursday to kill the rest of the adult mosquitos. They´ve checked every barrel and pila in San Juan, draining those with adolescent mosquitos and emphasizing the need to maintain your pila clean. They´ve interviewed everybody who´s had a fever in the last two weeks and taken blood samples from those who possibly have dengue. It´s been hectic!
All that being said, don´t worry about me. I´ve actually never felt better.
I´ll sign off now. If you made it this far, you´re probably tired of reading!