Zika Fighter: Lastenia Doris Borjas

Borjas measures the size of the water tank/pillar to determine how much larvicide to use.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras:

Lastenia Doris Borjas started working with the Zika AIRS Project (ZAP) in Honduras in 2017 as a Vector Control Technician and since has been promoted to Vector Control Supervisor. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ZAP helps countries to tackle Zika and other vector-borne diseases through vector control management and awareness raising. A graduate from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) with a Bachelors in Journalism, Borjas recently talked about her experience with Zika and her role on the project.

ZAP: Have you had any experience with mosquito-borne disease?

Borjas: In 2015, my four-year-old son and I suffered through chikungunya. This is the worst that could happen to a mother – to see your young son suffer through this disease and be completely helpless to stop it. Every time I remember this episode in my life, it gives me strength to do even better in my work to prevent such diseases.

(Chikungunya, which can cause high fevers, joint pain, headaches and rashes, is transmitted by the infected Aedes ageypti mosquito. This particular mosquito also carries dengue and the Zika virus. Pregnant women are particularly at risk as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetal birth defects, including microcephaly.)

ZAP: What is your role with the project?

Borjas: My primary role is to approach and deal with communities and neighborhoods vulnerable to the Zika virus. The project treats and eliminates mosquito breeding sites and at the same time educates the community in order to help prevent the spread of this disease.

ZAP: What is the greatest challenge to achieving success in your job?

Borjas: The greatest challenge is ensuring the public is educated and informed. Mosquito infestation levels reached 100% in some neighborhoods, resulting in an epidemic outbreak of dengue combined with the unexpected and rapid emergence of new diseases such as Zika and Chikungunya.

Borjas debriefs and motivates her team before heading into the field.

ZAP: What impact has ZAP had on these viruses in your country?

Borjas: Since ZAP began working in Honduras, I’ve seen a reduction in infestation indices; a reduction in cases of Zika, dengue and Chikungunya; and acceptance of the use and application of larvicides (Bti) inside homes.

(The number of cases of Zika, dengue and Chikunguyna reduced between 75-91 percent from 2016 to 2017 in the four areas ZAP works. Larviciding with Bti prevents mosquito larvae from developing into adult mosquitoes. Bti is applied to breeding sources like pilas or barriles to eliminate larvae. Larvicide particles react when larvae ingest them, preventing them from fully developing into adult mosquitoes. These particles only react with specific insects, such as flies or mosquitoes, and not with humans or other types of animals.)

ZAP: What do you hope to come from the project?

Borjas: My hope is that with the help of the US Government, ZAP might be extended to each and every Department (“State”) of Honduras, in order to achieve 100% coverage, and help the entire population to accept and choose to be responsible in the prevention of Zika. These diseases have had a huge negative impact in the health of the Honduran people, as well as the economy, since treatments are very expensive. Left untreated, such diseases have a negative influence in the social-economic development of Honduras.

ZAP has protected many lives from Zika. The project has also provided local job opportunities, and shown Honduran youth that teamwork is the key to success.

I have learned to work in a team and have become more environmentally conscious. Thanks to ZAP I feel much better prepared to train and educate vulnerable groups in my neighborhood.

Raising awareness about Zika

ZAP: What has been one thing you’ve learned or loved about working with ZAP?

Borjas: I really appreciate the value of my work and the recognition of my effort and work. I love the encouragement USAID has given to my country through such a valuable project.