By Boris Esono Nwenfor
As of March 22, the number of Cholera outbreaks in the South West Region of Cameroon stood at 1904 cases and 44 cumulative deaths in that time. Medics and health practitioners are thus calling on the population of Buea in particular and the entire region, in general, to practice proper hygiene if the country is to fight the cholera epidemic.
In the Mile 16 neighbourhood in Buea, the number of cases stood at 102 as of March 19, while there have been some six deaths during that time. In the whole of Buea, the number of cumulative cases stands at 326 with 6 cumulative deaths. In the heath district of Limbe, statistics released by the SW Ministry of Public Health notes that there are 682 cumulative cases with 14 cumulative deaths.
Since the beginning of 2021, Cameroon has reported sporadic cases of cholera. During week 43 of 2021, ending on 31 October, health authorities declared a cholera outbreak that is currently active in the South-West region, with cases also reported from the Centre and Littoral regions. Between 25 October and 10 December 2021, these three regions reported a cumulative number of 309 suspected and 4 laboratory-confirmed cholera cases, with 19 deaths (case fatality ratio (CFR) of 6.1%).
The South-West region, reported the first two cases on 27 October in the Kesse area, Bamusso commune in Ekondo Titi health district. Two stool samples were collected from the cases and tested positive for cholera by the culture at the Laquintinie Hospital laboratory in Douala.
Takang Helen epse Etchu, chief of centre, Mile 16 Integrated Health District said the health centre is a satellite health centre for cholera and those that are there were referred to the regional hospital and some died at home.
“We have realized that cholera at all times starts from mile 16. We are begging the population of mile 16 to be vigilant on what they eat, what they do and where they go. We are calling on the population to carry up their hygiene both in our houses and outside. We should practice regular handwashing; wash food and cook food well before eating.”
Mathias Ngund, a senior government health official in Buea, told VOA that the lack of clean drinking water is exacerbating the spread of cholera in Buea. He said he has informed the government that the provision of water is an emergency need.
“We went to all the houses of suspected cases, we disinfected them and also we have had coordination meetings with the administrative authorities to respond to the outbreak,” Ngund said.
Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of Vibrio cholera bacteria present in contaminated water or food. In its severe form, it can lead to severe dehydration and death within hours if left untreated. It is primarily linked to insufficient access to safe water and adequate sanitation. It has the potential to spread rapidly, depending on the frequency of exposure, the population exposed, and the context.
Cholera is endemic in Cameroon. Since 2018, cholera outbreaks have been reported annually in various regions of the country including in the currently affected regions (South-West, Centre and Littoral). Several risk factors concur with the circulation of Vibrio cholera in the country, including limited access to safe drinking water and health care facilities in the affected areas of the South-West region and in the capital city of Yaoundé, as well as cultural practices that contribute to unsafe WASH conditions.