World Health Organisation, WHO, and other partners have been supporting response activities to curb the spread of cholera in Cameroons amongst which are; the chlorination of water sites and supplies, the isolation and treatment of cholera patients in health center, the distribution of cholera kits, communication and social mobilization activities.
Just recently the WHO supported the Cameroon government with 204, 800 doses of Euvichol vaccines for a campaign against cholera in the South West region, where the epidemic has been hitting hard for several months. The doses are a donation from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an organization backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a group of founding partners. The idea behind this alliance is to encourage manufacturers to reduce the price of vaccines for the poorest countries.
Challenges of cholera epidemic
Since the beginning of 2021, Cameroon has reported sporadic cases of cholera. On October 31, 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 October 25 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 WHO disclosed.
The South-West region, reported the first two cases on October 27, in Kesse area, Bamusso commune in Ekondo Titi health district. Two stool samples were collected from the cases and tested positive for cholera by culture at the Laquintinie Hospital laboratory in Douala. As of December, 10 a cumulative number of 163 suspected cases with 7 deaths (CFR 4.3%) have been identified in Ekondo Titi health district. 60% of cases were male and 16.6% were under the age of five. The outbreak has spread to the neighbouring health district of Bakassi, with 95 suspected cases and 11 deaths (CFR 11.6%).
The WHO report went further to state that “on October 28 2021, the Centre region, notified a suspected case of cholera with no epidemiological link to cases reported in the South-West region, from the health area of Akok-Ndoe, Biyem-Assi health district part of the urban community of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. A stool sample tested positive for cholera by Rapid Diagnostic Test, and on October 29 was confirmed positive by PCR and culture for Vibrio cholerae at the Pasteur Centre of Cameroon, Yaounde. A cumulative number of 50 suspected cases and one death (CFR 2%) have been reported from Biyem-Assi health district. Of these 52% were male and 8% were under the age of five. The last case to date in the Centre region was reported on 11 November 2021. “
In the Littoral region, a cholera case was confirmed by culture on 21 November 2021 in an eight-year-old boy at the Laquintinie Hospital laboratory in Douala. This has remained an isolated case with no further suspected cases. His family and those in his neighbourhood also reported no travel history, the international organisation reported.
In December last year, the WHO deployed a Rapid response team to the South-West (Ekondo Titi) and Centre region. Rapid diagnostic test kits and sample transportation media have also been deployed to the affected regions.A cholera treatment unit (CTU) of 14 beds was set up in Bamusso Health Centre and treatment guidelines have been developed with support from MSF. Also, Cholera case management kits were distributed in health facilities; with free treatment, Community leaders and selected community members have been trained on hand washing, purification of water and disinfection of homes and public spaces amongst others
A response plan has been elaborated and the Ministry of Health with health partners including WHO, UNICEF and Doctors without borders will support the different areas of the response plan.
As of now, teams from the Ministry of public health are creating awareness on the disease, the objective of which is to educate people on the basic rules of hygiene, starting with systematic hand washing. This sensitization also involves the construction of latrine blocks to stop the spread of the epidemic. “vaccination is expected that vaccination will come after the sensitisation.
Cholera outbreaks are recurrent in Cameroon, especially in areas known for having poor drainage systems and sanitation facilities. In addition to poor sanitary conditions, Public Health experts say ignorance about the disease is one of the key reasons why there is a resurgence so often.