Out of Africa…now to Durham

4 08 2010

Hey everyone! So first and foremost I apologize for the tardiness of this blog entry. I have never written a blog or have been required to share reflections on any experience before. I pretty much just end up thinking about how a blog should be for so long that I never end up writing it. So, I just decided to write whatever comes to my mind- any observations or inspirations.

Two weeks ago, I came back from Sierra Leone, where I was doing a small research project on bushmeat hunting and hunters’ perceptions of zoonotic disease risk. It truly was an experience I will never forget. With the support of the Tacugama Chimpanzee sanctuary, I was able to travel to many villages in southern districts of Sierra Leone- covering around 40 villages in all. The living style was not bad…although for almost all of my trips to the villages there was no electricity or other western conveniences. When you think of a tribal village, what comes to mind for most are thatch-roof houses and firepits. For most of the villages I visited, this was not too off the mark. The people in Sierra Leone were incredibly welcoming and nice and showed such an appreciation for visitors that I have not seen elsewhere.

So, you may wonder why I am delving into my previous summer project when I am supposed to be discussing TB? Mainly so I can touch on the extreme differences. If you told me TB was an issue in West Africa (which it is), I would not be surprised. Most individuals I met don’t have access to a hospital, and routine vaccinations are not all that common. For many, especially those in rural areas, the cost of making the trip to see a doctor or nurse would be too much in and of itself.

When I first read the description of this internship, I thought to my naïve self: how many TB cases could there really be in North Carolina? Little did I know that latent and active TB was actually a very serious problem, especially among Latino, immigrant, HIV positive, and migrant worker populations. I could provide some statistics…but the former intern, Catherine, I think sums it up quite nicely in her blog that is also on the global health dispatch. Check it out!

At least there is a very good program to monitor and treat latent and active TB cases. In North Carolina, it is the law to implement Directly Observed Therapy on all active patients. It is also mandated for all infectious persons to take TB medications…so noncompliance can result in some jail time. A lot of my time will be spent accompanying nurses at the Wake County Health Department on home DOT visits. The rest is kind of up in the air. It should be an interesting second half of the summer!

– Melanie Subramanian



One response

4 08 2010

Thanks for sharing, Melanie. It’s interesting to hear how students’ experiences compare and contrast, and really brings it home (no pun intended) that global health challenges exist in our own backyard. We look forward to more of your blogs!

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