Issue - September 2008

September 2008

In this number: Minato Kobori interviews Julio Cesar Baldivieso; Perry King eliminate some myths of malaria in Bolivia; Stress is one of the main problems in our society nowadays Monica Ruiz tell us about this; Walter Sanchez explains about working women in Cochabamba and their moving away from domestic life. more...

September 2008

Malaria in Bolivia: Educating and eliminating myths about Bolivia

Perry King sits down with two respected researchers and experts on a disease that continues to be taken out of context and into fear

Perry King
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Toronto - Canada

Malaria is a very serious disease in our world, especially in Latin America and Bolivia. We as a traveling community understand this, but how much do we know and how accurate is our facts when we think about malaria with respect to Bolivia, perhaps one of the more biodiverse countries in the world?

“In Bolivia, there is vivax and falciparum strains of malaria”, says Doctor Zaida Lucas, resident doctor for the Programa Responsable de la Malaria of the Department of Cochabamba.

Vivax and falciparum are parasites that are carried and spread by Anopheles mosquitoes through bites, which occur depending on the location but most likely at dawn o dusk. Symptoms can escalate depending on the parasite and the affected host. Symptoms can range from flu-like symptoms to something more serious, including organ and brain damage.

“In Cochabamba department, there is only the vivax (parasite). Falciparum are in Beni and Chapare, which are in the Northern departments of Bolivia. They are endemic there,” says Lucas.

The Programa Responsable de la Malariacontinues to work to prevent and eliminate the spread of the malaria parasites through drainage and research. There is a consortium of trackers and volunteers from Cochabamba that continue to collect data about the disease.

“In Beni we find the number of cases is very low, not very high,” says Doctora Lucas.
It is very important to keep in mind that even though the more serious falciparum parasite is much more common overall, the vivax strain is much more common in the Cochabamba department. Luckily, this strain the disease is very regional due to climate and the strain is benign, indicating only minor symptoms after some preliminary tests. “In Cochabamba, there are about 20 to 30 cases,” says Doctor Silvia Pozo, resident doctor for the Center of Epidemiology, Ministry of Health for the Department o Cochabamba.

“There are 10 known cases of vivax, but we do not have the exact data because the samples of the patients have to be brought back to the city and analyzed. We are sure that the reports are coming from Villa Tunari.”

Pozo is well experienced with the medical field and the administration of treatment for malaria. She spent three and a half years practicing medicine in the Chapare region – to the north of Cochabamba.

One can never take the prospect of malaria lightly. Bolivia has many factors contributing to a fairly tame experience, but one cannot be too weary; the possibility the falciparum and vivax parasites mutating into a new strain is always apparent. Even though the concern of preventing the infection of newly mutated forms of the disease are there, some observers in the medical field, including the volunteering field, treatment and prevention of the disease dictated by Western medicine are not communicating careful treatment outside the reliance on drug treatment. But we find that the recommendations come with misinterpretation and consequences eventually follow.

For example, there have been reported cases, including by Projects Abroad, where patients have lived in the Cochabamba department, or in any of the other mountainous department, and have received too much treatment – for example, where patients have taken too much antimalarial medication. The result has been subsequent conditions and illnesses that are caused by the poisonous properties of the antimalarial medication.

Compared to the West “I think we’re more experienced in how we approach it. We highly recommend insect repellant and mostly recommend for precaution,” says Pozo. Pozo and Lucas agree that the recommendations for treatment are too focused on medication in the West and that doctors from North America and Europe are not recommending proper treatment and prevention with enough careful attention to detail.

“Western docs have to be more knowledgeable of the variety of our country,” says Pozo. “Speaking of Villa Tunari, which is very much like a suburb – like a small town, you may not find malaria in these areas, but maybe it could be found if you were to look further north.”

“I think they should be aware of the problems that may eventually arise as well as being more aware with many details,” says Pozo. The details with respect to malaria and specific details centering upon Bolivia need to shape the paradigm of some Western doctors.

The effort to combat malaria is being fought on all sides. And experts agree that if the disease needs to be eliminated, that there should be some consistent line of communication that everyone can utilize in order to help everyone learn from each other.

Stress in Cochabamba city

All human beings act according to their seven basic emotions: love, surprise, dislike, anger, happiness, sadness, and fear. When one of these seven emotions is not in complete balance, your body takes on a very alert attitude. This attitude is called double-edged. In some cases, it can help you, but in others it can affect your organism and your health when you cannot control it. That is why it is important to know what stress is in order to cope with it...

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