Published Date: 2011-12-19 11:52:12
Subject: PRO/EAFR> Cholera - Cameroon (10)
Archive Number: 20111219.237632
CHOLERA - CAMEROON (10)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Fri 16 Dec 2011
Source: All Africa.com, Radio Netherlands (RNW) Report [edited]
Cameroon has been battling with a cholera epidemic since early May
2010. Despite the efforts of health authorities to eradicate the
disease, patients are often too ashamed to seek proper medical
assistance and resort to self-medication instead.
The Mokolo-Elobi neighbourhood, in Yaounde neighbourhood is among the
most unhealthy in the Cameroonian capital and considered to be the
city's cholera epicentre. Since the outbreak of the epidemic on 6 May
2010, the number of deaths from the disease has been steadily
increasing. Despite measures taken by the health authorities to
contain the disease, the epidemic shows no signs of slowing down,
largely due to the shame patients associate with seeking professional help.
Fear of discrimination
"My neighbour died at home. He was hiding his condition, fearing he's
be quarantined. He tried self-medication but, unfortunately, he
succumbed to the disease", recounts [a resident of Mokolo-Elobi].
Cases like these are frequent.
Dr Emilien Fouda, the Head Doctor at the Cite Verte hospital, one of
the treatment centres for cholera, explains: "The vibrio cholerae
(cholera bacteria) are highly contagious and can spread quite
rapidly. In order to control the propagation of the disease and
protect healthy populations, cholera patients are placed in isolation
during the treatment period". It is the isolation that scares the
patients and drives them to hide their condition.
At the outbreak of the epidemic, Cameroon's public health minister,
Andre Mama Fouda, declared in a statement that cholera was "a disease
of filth", further increasing the feeling of shame shared by patients.
Struggle for reintegration
After their recovery, former cholera patients often struggle to
reintegrate into society. "People who know that I was sick refuse to
shake my hand. They think I am still contagious", explains a former
cholera patient. He also reveals that his old friends no longer want
to share meals or drinks with him for the same reason. He had to make
new friends with people who did not know his recent medical history.
Dr Emilien Fouda stresses that "Once cured, one is no longer
contagious. The only remaining precautionary measure is to disinfect
the house as well as the clothes of the former patient, in order to
kill any remaining forms of bacteria".
Bad estimates for 2012
According to data released by the Ministry of Public Health, this is
the worst and longest cholera epidemic Cameroon has witnessed in 5
years. Women and children are reportedly the worst affected by the
disease although no percentages were given.
Cholera is a disease characterised by frequent and abundant diarrhoea
leading to severe dehydration, and death in more than 50 percent of
the cases. The disease spreads through oral contamination and is
often contracted through contact with faeces, contaminated food or water.
According to the Ministry of Public health, 10 759 cases of cholera
were recorded in 2010, with 657 deaths. From [1 Jan 2011] to [20 Sep
2011], there were already 16 804 cases 636 of which resulted in
death. There seems to be no end in sight for the epidemic.
Meanwhile, various steps have been taken by Cameroonian authorities
to eradicate the disease including: free treatment, practical
guidelines, sensitisation on basic hygiene and the construction of toilets.
[Byline: Anne Mireille Nzouankeu]
[The cholera epidemic in Cameroon continues to spread fueled by poor
living conditions, and now with stigma following infection leading to
cholera patients shunning the isolation facilities. Communities need
to be engaged and educated on the benefits of accessing appropriate
and timely treatment at the designated isolation facilities.
Additionally, better planning is needed to improve the social
amenities in residential areas particularly in congested urban areas.
An interactive map showing the regions of Cameroon can be accessed at
HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Cameroon can be accessed at
http://healthmap.org/r/1tC0. - Mod.JFW]