By Tata Mbunwe
At least one person is said to have died from cholera in Buea amid an outbreak in Mile 16 Bolifamba, medics have confirmed.
The Buea Health District Medical Officer, Dr. Ngund Mathias, confirmed an outbreak in a communique released Monday, January 31, in which he called for caution.
A female resident of Bolifamba, who died at the Buea Regional Hospital recently, is said to have manifested cholera symptoms, and post mortem results proved she died of cholera, a medic said.
“All the other cases that come here are severe – they come here dying and we struggle to bring them back. So it’s serious,” a medic at the Bolifamba Health Centre told reporters.
He added: “… we have just five beds. The ward is already full. Some patients are sitting on the benches. The problem is that the patients are refusing to get referred.”
About 17 cases have already been confirmed at the Bolifamba Health Centre and health personnel at the facility say some of the cases are “severe”, with common symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea.
“The regional hospital came and they did some rapid diagnostic testing and they confirmed some cases that were here. We have been managing them; we have been struggling with them so far. Today I think there were two children from the same house who just came this morning, highly suspect,” the medic said.
“For the past three to four days, we have received an increased number of serious watery stool and vomiting. Many times, the patients come here with severe dehydration. Many times vomiting; many times watery stool and some have even cramps. Hearing that there was an outbreak of cholera in the Idenau and Bakassi areas, from there to Buea is not far, I already thought that it may be an outbreak here. So I requested the lab to check to see if they will be able to see some things in the stool. She saw the cholera germs in the stool of some of the cases,” the medic added.
The outbreak started last Wednesday, January 26, at Mile 16, and cases have been increasing in the past few days with two more cases confirmed on Monday morning.
“They are still coming. We have two babies in the hall there now. They are vomiting and they have diarrhea at the same time but we are managing them up… we are trying our best,” a nurse at the Bolifamba health facility said.
She added: “We heard that some even died at home because they did not know what was happening; some died in other hospitals but here we have no casualties… Our doctor is working very hard to see that no patient is referred but all patients are treated. We have had about 17 cases positive but our doctor is making sure that they are well taken care of and most of them have been discharged. We have two new ones are in the hall. Then we have five lying in the ward.”
*Potential cause of outbreak*
Although the Buea health district authorities are still to publicize information on the cause of the cholera outbreak, health officials at Bolifamba have said the disease could be stemming from a local water source, “Amen Water” as it is commonly called.
It is a popular spring water catchment in Bolifamba which serves as a major source of drinking water in the community.
At least two cholera cases have been confirmed around the area and, on Monday morning, the catchment was temporarily closed for fear of further transmissions.
“I noticed that many of the cholera cases come from one water catchment down there, ‘Amin water’, I don’t know where it is but about three or four confirmed cases live around there.
So it raises my eyebrow and makes me look at that water source.
So if the water can be looked into, maybe that’s where they are getting the thing from. It could be the water, it could not be,” the medic at Bilifamba health center said.
To prevent possible infection, Bolifamba health workers advised people “to boil their water; to use water guards to disinfect their drinking water. If they cannot have these water guards they should boil, keep it cool and clean, and drink. They should wash their hands with soap and water.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Ngund Mathias, in Monday’s communique said people should avoid roadside food; wash their hands after using the toilet; wash hands before and after meals and eat safe raw food.
The outbreak occurs just over one month since Doctors Without Borders raised awareness on a Cholera outbreak in Ekondo-Titi, Idenau, and Tiko, all in the Southwest region of Cameroon.
Many people are wondering where people, especially in neighborhoods like Mile 16, will get safe drinking water from, given the poor conditions of water in the neighborhood.