The Team Selfie
The student interns for the Goat Pass-On Project 2015, Sarah, yours truly and Lena.
Time is flying by! I can't believe June is basically a quarter over already! This last week was officially our first complete week on the project and it was great! We started field work this week, which I am really enjoying. First we have to arrange with one of the nineteen communities that we will be coming around on "this day" and doing vaccinations and brucella testing. We had to buy a bunch of supplies to prepare for our field days, but with the number of pharmacies here, we have no problem getting everything we need. Getting a prescription for drugs is only a recommendation here and there is no such thing as controlled substances. We can walk into a pharmacy and buy valium as if we were buying a bag of chips. The controlling variable here is that the majority of the population cannot afford to buy these drugs, so therefore they are not abused. It is a rarity here to even see someone smoking, as the addiction is too expensive. Everything that must be imported to Uganda is very expensive. Today I was at the Nakumatt (Basically the Walmart of Mbarara) and wanted to buy a small bag of
Don't poke yourself!
Drawing blood for brucella testing.
shrimp until I saw that they were 85000 Ugandan shillings! (Trust me, this is ridiculously expensive for a bag of shrimp, about $34 Canadian dollars). No shrimp for me. 😞
Anyways, to get back on topic, once we had all the drugs, syringes, needles, vaccines, gloves, etc. that we needed for our field work, we would pack it all in the green machine and head out to the community that we had planned to meet with. Our first stop is always Joseph's house. He is our main translator now that Vivian has been accepted for a teaching internship and will no longer be available to help us this summer. Once we pick him up we head to the community paravet's place. A paravet is an individual within the community that has received special training from VWB to perform basic husbandry practices on goats, such as vaccination, deworming and treating for minor illness. They can provide services to the goats of beneficiaries for a small fee to that individual. The problem that many paravets are having is that they will go to someone's farm and provide services and then the farmer will tell them that they have no
Somehow, we luckily avoided all of the rain.
money and can't pay for anything. This is one of the problems that we will be working to provide solutions for this summer. Our approach on the project is to act more as facilitators rather than telling people what to do, so we will present a few solutions and recommendations to the communities and then they will decide as a group what action to take.
Once we pick up the community paravet we head around to homes within the community, asking them if they would like us to vaccinate and test their goats for brucella. There is a small fee for the clostridia vaccine, but the brucella testing is free. For the brucella testing we pull about 2 ml of blood from each goat, making sure we have a description of the goats and organized record keeping system, so that we can identify the goats later on. Once the blood is in the syringe, we let it clot and use the serum to test for antibodies against brucella in the blood. If you are unfamiliar with brucella, it is a bacteria that can cause the goats to abort their pregnancies, which is obviously not a good thing,
Sarah and Lena riding on the motorcycle with Joseph.
as the farmer is not getting live kids. The even worse thing about brucella is that it is zoonotic. By definition, zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans under natural conditions. Brucella causes a treatable, but nasty disease in humans, characterized mostly by high fever, sweats, headache and joint pain. Brucella can also cause a chronic, relapsing disease in humans.
Brucella is not a fun disease for humans to get, so you can imagine my panic when I poked myself with a bloody needle while we were performing the antibody test the other day. My finger was bleeding and I was just hoping to all hell that the goat sample I had pricked myself with was negative for brucella......of course it ended up being the only positive of the batch, and a strong positive for that matter. By now I was really freaking out. I knew that the disease is highly transmissible and I was already imagining myself with this awful, potentially debilitating disease. I broke down in tears as Laura tried to quickly research what action we should take. Dr. Google recommended some heavy duty antibiotics ASAP as prophylaxis (for all
My audience at one of the community meetings.
my non-vet friends, this means medication to prevent the bacteria from ever establishing). Laura basically shoved one of her doxycycline pills down my throat and we waited to hear back from a few doctors on what action we should take. We also talked to Dr. Card (the coordinator of the goat project) and she reassured us that although the goat is positive for the brucella antibody, it is very unlikely that the bacteria are present in the goats blood. Brucella is a cell associated bacteria and it most commonly transmitted to humans through contact with fetal membranes and drinking unpasteurized milk, rather than through blood. This was a huge relief! Once I got my cool back and realized that I wasn't facing absolute death we continued on with our day. I am going to take doxy for three weeks, just as an extra precaution, but I am 98% sure that I will be perfectly fine.
Later that afternoon we headed out to the field to do a couple of dog neuters! We knocked the dogs out with a potent mix of Xylazine and Diazepam. (Laura told us to never, ever use this mix in Canada, but when
Our field selfies could use a bit of work haha
in Africa, you make due with what you can get!) The surgeries went well and each of us students got a turn tying off and snipping a nut. It was a great experience and gave me that much more appreciation for all the fancy drugs and machines that we get to work with in Canada while practicing vet med. We also went to a couple of the community meetings this week. If I didn't have patience before, I sure do now! If the meeting starts at 3pm then there is no point in showing up before 4pm. At one meeting we waited for over two hours to talk. It is strange being immersed in a culture that is not driven by time. North Americans are all about being time efficient, getting as much done as possible and it is always rush, rush, rush! That mentality is definitely not effective here. Here, things will get done when they get done and that's just the way it is. This makes it a little difficult to feel as if we are actually accomplishing things, but it has been eye opening for sure. Are Canadians right to always maximize time and always be in
a rush? I'm not sure. People sure seem a lot less stressed out here when they are not constantly counting wasted minutes and are just living for right now.
Now a new week is beginning and we are busy preparing for a training session on Thursday. We will be teaching basic husbandry practices to a few goat farmers from the Queen Elizabeth National Park. These are members of the groups that will be associated with Dr. Siefert, the German veterinarian. Yesterday, Lena and I spent the day relaxing at the pool. I was an idiot and didn't put sunscreen on soon enough. My entire body is now badly sunburnt and I look like a cross between a human and a lobster.....a hobster, that's what I am. It hurts to move and lay down, so the next couple of days are going to suck until this burn turns into a nice golden tan. I've learnt my lesson and will be putting on sunscreen for sure next time, especially since doxycycline causes increased sun sensitivity and I will burn easier than normal. But now its bedtime for this hobster, I hope you are enjoying my blog, goodnight!
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