Researching dengue in Brazil … so it begins June 29, 2010Posted by amarkon in Brazil, Graduate, Individual Fellowship.
Tags: Brazil, Dengue, Epidemiology
So let me start off my blog post by introducing myself—my name is André Markon and I am a doctoral student in Epidemiological Sciences at the School of Public Health. I will be contributing to the II blog over the next few weeks describing my experience in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, over the start of the summer.
I went to Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, to develop my dissertation. I work with a disease called dengue fever, which is quite nasty. In fact, a prominent dengue researcher once said that dengue probably won’t kill you, but you wish it would. Put it like this—your whole body aches, you have very high fevers, and you can even have some digestive “issues.” It’s not what I’d call my idea of fun. Oh, and there’s no vaccine currently available, and standard treatment consists primarily of rehydration therapy … lovely, no?
I bet you’re currently asking yourself why on earth somebody would waste their time working with something so nasty. (At least I would if I were you.) My interest in dengue began when I was in college after taking a parasitology course. My interest continued to grow throughout the years. Then, during my master’s, I went to Brazil to work in a public health center in Ribeirão Preto. The time I spent working at that center was amazing and heavily influenced my decision to pursue my PhD in epidemiology. The center was so overrun by dengue patients of all ages, and I just felt like I personally needed to do something about it. So that’s how I got into dengue …
And why Brazil? My first answer is “Why not?” Secondly, I am originally from Brazil—I was born in São Paulo city, but have spent most of my life here in the U.S. (on account of my dad’s job). Yet, I have always had a very strong connection with Brazil. Heck, I’m sporting a Brazil soccer jersey right now as I type this blog. (After all, it is the World Cup.) So, upon combining the reasons I just mentioned with the fact that dengue affects most of the country, it becomes pretty obvious why I went down there.
Now, why Ribeirão Preto? Heck, where is RP? It is a fairly large city some 3.5 hours north of São Paulo city. It is the center of the Brazilian ethanol production industry (most cars in Brazil run on sugar cane alcohol or a mixture of fuels that include ethanol) and suffers from quasi-yearly dengue epidemics. Another factor that brought me to RP was the fact that there are 11 or so universities and colleges in this city of just over 550,000 inhabitants, offering me the ideal infrastructure to do a “solid” dissertation that could someday have a real-world impact. In the next blog I’ll start talking about the experience itself … ’til then … tchau tchau for now.