Observer News

GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper Goes on the Road – The Zika Bus.

In many places around the world, and especially tropical areas, mosquito borne diseases are a constant threat. When environmental conditions are the most favorable for mosquito growth and reproduction, endemic diseases can easily explode into epidemics. Recently, the Brazilian state of Paraná experienced a dengue epidemic. The number of disease cases increased to over one million, almost 200% more compared to the same period (Jan-May) in 2021. In order to to reduce the local risk of disease, local public education fostering mosquito vector awareness, community mosquito surveillance, and mitigation is needed.

Enter the Zika Bus. The Zika Bus is a non-formal education project created by scientist leads, Dr. Rodrigo Arantes Reis and Dr. Emerson Joucoski, Federal University of Parana (UFPR), Brazil. The bus is a mobile museum and science laboratory that supports mosquito vector education in small cities and rural areas. The bus travels to schools, community health events, and science fairs offering experiential mosquito vector education to communities that don’t have access to the science and public health outreach of larger cities.

From left: Zika Bus graduate student coordinator Dani Hostin, Professor Rodrigo Arantes Reis, and Professor Emerson Joucoski.

The Zika Bus offers interactive science experiences that include exhibits and multimedia presentations.

Zika Bus co-coordinator Clayton de Oliveira shares a tactile exhibit of a mosquito breeding site with student visitors.

Zika Bus programming always utilizes the local environment as part of the educational experience. Visitors hunt for local mosquito breeding sites in their community, and are introduced to The GLOBE Program’s Observer app and the Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool. Visitors are encouraged to download and use the app after the program and after the Zika Bus visit is over.

Aedes aegypti larvae collected and examined by students as part of the Zika Bus outreach program.

Dani Hostin, UFPR graduate student, is also a coordinator of the Zika Bus outreach program. For Dani, the Zika Bus is not only a mobile educational venue but also an educational research laboratory. Dani will be developing interactive games as part of the Zika Bus programming and will be evaluating the effectiveness of role playing in non-formal education. “Using art as a way to share science is an underdeveloped strategy in Brazil, and something I am particularly interested in exploring,” says Dani. “Engaging minds and hearts will help students to create their own connection to the environment and foster growing engagement and awareness of the challenges of climate change and mosquito borne disease.”

The dengue virus in the southern part of Brazil is relatively new, so the education mission of the Zika Bus is critically important in this region. Dengue is now becoming endemic in higher latitudes as well as in less populated areas in Brazil. Until recently, these regions were free of dengue transmission. Due to increased climate suitability in these areas, the Aedes mosquitoes have begun to expand polewards. This combined with a locally active mosquito vector, a susceptible human population, and the periodic introduction of infected mosquitoes and humans (through travel and commerce) can lead to seasonal outbreaks in currently disease-free areas.

Map of Brazil showing spread of dengue transmission into previously disease-free regions, (pre-2010 to March 2022). Source: Infodengue.

Students assembling to participate in Zika Bus programming. The Zika Bus supports citizen science and public health education by detailing local mosquito health threats, including dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya, as well as Zika.

The Zika Bus is an example of the significant impact of GLOBE Observer’s citizen science program. The idea for the project emerged in 2018, during the USAID funded GO Mosquito Community Challenge Campaign, led by Dr. Russanne Low of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. After participating in one of the USAID-sponsored workshops, Dr. Rodrigo Arantes Reis (UFPR) was motivated to obtain grant funding to buy the bus and develop the outreach program, repurposing and translating resources created by the GLOBE Mission Mosquito Campaign’s science team. The official rollout of the Zika Bus was delayed more than two years because of pandemic restrictions, but starting this month, there are five graduate students who will be making weekly Zika Bus visits to communities around the state of Paraná.

About the Authors: Daniela Hostin is a graduate student in biology education at UFPR. Dr. Russanne Low is the science lead for the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper.

For more information:

Codeco, C.T., Oliveira, S.S., Ferreira, D.A., Riback, T.I., Bastos, L.S., Lana, R.M., Almeida, I., Godinho, V.B., Cruz, O.G. and Coelho, F.C., 2022. Fast expansion of dengue in Brazil. The Lancet Regional Health–Americas, 12.