Preventing dengue

Victoria Egedus ’14 will be published as the lead author for research she completed about the deadly virus while studying abroad in Costa Rica last spring.

Egedus’s paper, “Knowledge, perceptions, and practices with respect to the prevention of dengue in a mid-Pacific coastal village of Costa Rica,” will appear in the September 2014 edition of The International Journal of Tropical Biology.

Egedus, a chemistry major with a Spanish minor, chose the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Costa Rica program specifically for its emphasis on research and the opportunity it presented for her to speak Spanish. Because of her interest in medicine, she also appreciated working alongside her research adviser, Professor Anabelle Alfaro Obando of Universidad Nacional. Obando is a co-author on the paper and a regional expert on dengue, the most deadly arthropod borne virus to humans in the world. The virus is found in tropical areas such as Latin America, typically near stagnant water where the transmitters, mosquitos, populate. 

As part of Egedus’s research, she interviewed village residents about their knowledge of dengue. Then, she analyzed data collected by the country’s Ministry of Health that surveyed properties for their likelihood of serving as breeding grounds for the virus. 

Egedus concluded that interview participants who were less educated about dengue were more likely to live on or near properties at high risk of being dengue breeding sites. Other significant relationships were the frequency of dengue infections in the household, the participant’s perceived danger of the disease, and their rating of the importance of dengue prevention.

This project was Egedus’s first out-of-lab research experience; previously, she had conducted epigenetics research at Northwestern and developmental biology research as a Richter Scholar at the College. This was the first time she interviewed subjects, though, and she learned that talking to people has its perks compared to working in a lab.

Her experience in Costa Rica inspired her to learn another language: Portuguese. In fact, she’s enrolled in a class at the College now. It also gave her a push to add an MPH program to her graduate school goals. 

“Before this experience, I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “But with the exposure I gained in Latin America, I am now looking into dual degree medical programs.”

But first, she plans to return to Costa Rica.

With support from the Grace Groner Foundation, Egedus will depart for the Monteverde Institute just two weeks after graduating from Lake Forest College on May 10. There, she will participate in several studies over the course of a year, one of which is put on by the University of South Florida called “The Impact of Economic Change on Food Habits and Nutritional Health.” Another is “Monteverdes in Motion,” which aims to increase activity among community members and lower obesity rates.

Aside from the research, she said she looks forward to returning to the culture—the dancing, the music, and the tropical trees.

“It’s so colorful there,” she said. “Life is vibrant.”

She also entertains the idea of working on another paper for publication. 

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on the field of dengue research through this first publication,” she said. “I thank Lake Forest College and the ACM for helping pave the path that led me there. Looking forward, I think the first publication was nice. Now it’s time to work toward another one.”