In recent years, the Far North Region of Cameroon has experienced serious and recurrent Cholera outbreaks. Yet, understanding of cultural influences on outbreaks and spread remain poorly understood. This qualitative study explored cultural influences on Cholera exposure in this region. Interviews and group discussions were conducted in two phases. Phase I involved key informants and phase II included focus group and household discussions. Thematic techniques including word repetition, key-indigenous-terms, and key-words-in-context were used for qualitative data analysis. Key informants attributed Cholera etiology to dirt and spread through water (caneri) and food (group eating or faire-un-rond) while group discussions attributed it to a reprimand from god and transmission through the air.
Participants suggested that funerals, weddings, open defecation, and mountaintop burial might influence Cholera exposure and facilitate its spread. Hospital avoidance and non-adherence with Cholera treatment regimens were linked to favourable beliefs about traditional medicine (rural-urban mentality confrontation). Furthermore, a multiplicity of ethnic languages, mistrust of message sources, culture of dependency and sentimental animal husbandry were barriers to the reception of public health messages. Many participants had limited scientific knowledge about Cholera etiology and transmission. The cultural practice of mountain burial seemed to explain the high Cholera attack rate in the mountainous terrain compared to the floodplains. Cultural factors are likely to play important roles in the exposure to and spread of Cholera. Understanding cultural context, individual and community perceptions of risk and disease may help public health agencies in response to outbreak prevention and control.