Early Monday morning, nearly 40 elementary school students from Escuela María Luisa de Castro paraded through the narrow streets of Boca Vieja, Quepos chanting and banging on drums. The march was organized by Marina España, president of the local public health committee, and Roxana Solis, the school director, and aimed to raise awareness about the growing problem of dengue.
According to a July 29 update by the Health Ministry’s Health Surveillance Unit, dengue cases have increased 616 percent this year over the same time period in 2009 for a total of 15,916 cases, with one death directly attributed to dengue this year. In Quepos alone, 485 cases have beenrecorded in 2010 thus far, with 60 of those in Boca Vieja.
“The committee has an obligation to educate the public about the dangers of dengue and about protection,” said España, whose husband is suffering from fatigue and muscle aches after contracting dengue three weeks ago. “Last year there were only about 40 or so cases of dengue here, and this year it seems as if someone in every house has dengue.”
During the hour-long demonstration, the students carried handmade signs calling for dengue prevention and eradication. Neighbors stopped their work and gathered in their doorways to watch as the children marched by chanting, “No more dengue! Clean your houses!” To draw even more attention totheir cause, some students wore traditional masks and played percussioninstruments as they wound their way through the streets.
Esteban Varela, a Health Ministry representative, handed out flyers depicting ways to prevent the Aedes aegypti mosquito,which transmits dengue, from breeding bycleaning patios, houses, and other areas where trash accumulates, and to throw out containers where water collects.
A second flyer alerted residents to specific cleanup activities being spearheaded by the local public health committee incoordination with the Health Ministry. Residents were urged to leave plastic bottles, scrap metals, buckets, and other materials in front of their houses for collection. Following Tuesday morning’s parade, nearly 25 people gathered at España’s house to properly dispose of the trash they had collected.
A Social Security System (Caja) poster detailing ways to prevent dengue hangsnear España’s front door and in many houses in Quepos. Information about the disease, and its transmission, symptoms, and where to seek care can be found on signs at the town’s main bus terminal. An additional, larger procession to heighten people’s awareness is being organized in Quepos Friday, Aug. 13 by thesame groups together with municipal officials.
“People need to be more conscientious about removing their trash and cleaning their homes,” España said. “It’s critical to stopping the spread of dengue in our community.”