This past summer I spent two months working with Veterinarians Without Borders (US) in the West Nile region of Uganda where we tested people and their livestock for three zoonotic diseases: brucellosis, trypanosomiasis, and tuberculosis.
We tested for these diseases while also taking measurements to assess the nutritional status of the people and animals.
These animals are very important to their owners. In addition to a source of food, these animals are also sold to pay for tuition or given as part of a bride price before a wedding.
This was an incredible opportunity to travel abroad, work on my clinical skills, learn about zoonoses, and immerse myself in another culture.
My day began with an hour drive on a bumpy dirt road (driving along these bumpy roads is known as an African massage) to a health clinic where we would meet our crew. Our team included a human phlebotomist as well as a translator and community animal health workers.
Once our crew was together we drove to a household and set up our field lab. Our team would split into two groups, one staying at the lab and helping to get measurements of the humans while another group would take blood from and measure the animal subjects, either goats, sheep, or cows.
While most of the goats and sheep were easy to locate, we would often have to hike through fields or up rocky hills to locate the cows, some of which were free ranging. If we were lucky, the owners would have gathered them close to their home in anticipation of our arrival.
Families could own anywhere between one and twenty five cows with just as many goats and sheep so we often only got through two to three households per day.
Our day would end once we had finished our last household and then it was back to the dorms of the national agricultural institute at which we were staying.
One of the most fulfilling parts about this trip was training the community animal health workers. The biggest part of their job is overseeing the livestock markets and most of them had little experience drawing blood from animals. I was happy to know that once our team left they would be able to do blood draws if the need arises.