Well, we have a little stabilisation in terms of the number of new cases. At the peak of the epidemic in the Far North Region we had as much as a 150 to 200 cases per day and as many as ten deaths per day but starting from about the 36th week, and we are the 38th week now, this has been dropping to the point where we have 40 to 50 new cases and as few as three to five deaths. It is deplorable. We want to have no deaths at all, but I think things are getting better. If it were not for certain areas such as Bogo and Kolofata, we would even be saying things are so good.
What about other towns like Yaounde and Douala where cholera cases were detected?
In Yaounde we have an imported case. We have the situation of someone who was travelling by train from Ngaoundere to Yaounde but because of the vigilance of the health personnel in CAMRAIL and the health district of Mbandjock, this case was identified, rescued and treated at the Mbandjock district hospital and is well and strong at home. Apart from this confirmed case, there has been no confirmed case of cholera in the Centre Region. The Centre Region is not in an epidemic as such. In Douala we have had one confirmed case and tens of suspected cases; we are on alert and making sure that we do not have confirmed cases of deaths from cholera.
What is the government doing now to curb the spread of the pandemic?
The government is doing a lot. The first and most important thing is that we are doing continued and strengthened reinforced information and re-education about personal hygiene and it is important for people to wash their hands with soap and water before and after meals and after stool. Secondly, it is important for people to stool only in latrines or in modern toilets. Thirdly, we tell people not to manipulate corpses or dead bodies because cholera can be very contagious. If somebody dies of cholera and you touch the body or the fluid, the vomit or the stool of that person, you are likely to have cholera and it could have dire consequences. There are basically three things: personal hygiene, using latrines, avoiding the touching of corpses or cloths or belongings of some one who is suffering from cholera. That is the information we give out.
What about those already infected?
In terms of taking care of patients, we ask all of them who are having diarrhoea or who suspect that they are having cholera because they have diarrhoea or vomiting, to drink oral dehydrated salts. These salts are found in plastics and free where they are being circulated in treatment centres. But when one cannot get to the treatment centre, they can make their own oral dehydration salt themselves. You take one litre of decanted water, boil it and let it cool off for 30 minutes, put five cubes of sugar in a litre of water; pinch three fingers of salt with half of lime fruit in it and you drink and keep drinking it. If the diarrhoea doesn’t stop within three to four hours and if you have up to ten stools a day then you must see a health officer.
Reports say some cases came from neighbouring countries like Nigeria. Is government doing anything to make sure that such cases are not reported in subsequent years?
We treat people irrespective of their origin, sex and nationalities. That is what doctors take as an oath, so we do not discriminate on the origins of people. Further, we are a free society and we cannot stop people from moving. What we do is that where we see movement of people, we sensitise them, give them all necessary information so that they prevent contracting the disease.
What are the number of cases that have been recorded so far?
I am happy to tell you that it has been quite a big fight. The personnel of the Ministry of Public Health and our community health workers, national and international partners have been working in unison to limit especially the deaths so that out of 7,306 cases reported so far, we have saved the lives of 7,048 and we can say that unfortunately we have lost 482 people but this means that our death rate is down to 6.5 percent. It would have been much less if people came to treatment centres early because almost 56 percent of these deaths occurred in homes. The performance can be better but we realised that this year, the death rate is much lower that in other years before.