Background: Cholera outbreaks are recurrent in Cameroon and despite the efforts put together during epidemics, they are always associated with a high case fatality. Inadequate demand for health care is one of the major factors that might be responsible for the high case fatality. This study was conducted to describe the health seeking behaviour of suspected cases of cholera in four health districts of the Far North Cameroon.
Methods: We conducted a health facility based descriptive study involving suspected cases of cholera received in health facilities. Data was collected from August 2013 to October 2015 with the help of a questionnaire and analysis done by running frequency and calculating confidence interval at 95% with Epi Info version 3.5.4.
Results: A total of 1849 cases were enrolled, with 997 (53.9%) being males. 534 (28.9%) were children under the age of 5 and 942 (50.9%) were above the age of 14. About 373 (20%) of diarrhoeal patients arrived in the health facility more than 2 days following the onset of diarrhoea, with 916 (50%) of them being seriously dehydrated. Also, about 624 (34%) of these patients had sought treatment elsewhere before coming to the health facility where they were enrolled, and about 86% of them did not received ORS. Taking 2 or more days after diarrhoea onset or taking more than 1 h to travel from home to health facility was associated with severe dehydration in patients.
Conclusions: The delay between the onset of diarrhoea and seeking treatment from a health provider determines the seriousness of suspected cases of cholera in the Far North Cameroon. While conducting an anthropological study to understand reasons why a health provider is not the first option during diarrhoeal episodes, we recommend that a system of community case detection and reference to health facilities should be put in place during cholera outbreaks to minimize its case fatality rate.
Keywords: Cameroon; Cholera; Diarrhoea; Health seeking behaviour.