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Zoonoses in Cameroon: Path covered so far

Zoonoses, also known as zoonotic diseases are caused by germs that spread between animals and people.

In Cameroon, zoonoses infections are managed by the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. The center works to protect people at home and around the world from emerging and zoonotic infections ranging from anthrax to zika.

In Cameroon, animals provide many benefits to people. Many people interact with animals in their daily lives, both at home and away from home. Animals are used to provide food, fiber, livelihoods, travel, sport, companionship, and education for people across the globe. Millions of households in Cameroon have one or more pets.

However, animals can sometimes carry harmful germs that can spread to people and cause illness – these are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. Zoonotic diseases are caused by harmful germs like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. These germs can cause many different types of illnesses in people and animals, ranging from mild to serious illnesses and even death. Animals can sometimes appear healthy even when they are carrying germs that can make people sick, depending on the zoonotic disease.

During a zoonotic disease prioritization for inter-sectoral engagement in Cameroon held in March 2016, participants highlighted that rabies, Anthrax, avian influenza, Ebola/Marburg, and Bovine Tuberculosis as priority zoonotic diseases in Cameroon.

According to Dr. Vanessa, a medical practitioner in Bamenda, Cameroon, most cases related to zoonoses are not reported.

"A lot of people still have dogs unvaccinated and it's easy to be infected", she said.

She highlighted that Bamenda has some veterinary doctors that are available to vaccinate the animals.

"Cows have a vaccinated period, fowls, dogs, and other animals have their vaccination period", she highlighted.

The livestock population of Cameroon is estimated at over 90 million and includes over 72 million poultry, 9 million small ruminants, 5 million cattle, and 3 million swine.

The country is also environmentally diverse, ranging from tropical rainforest to high mountains and the arid Sahel. Parts of Cameroon lie within the Congo Basin, where repeated outbreaks of Ebola virus disease have been documented. The country’s unique landscape can create a wide range of zoonotic disease threats, including persistent diseases associated with livestock losses in the pastoral north to newly emerging viral pathogens in the forested south.

In July 2021, the United State Agency for International Development and its partners in Cameroon organized a round table discussion focused on how to further raise awareness of the risk of zoonotic diseases.

According to Dr. Conrad Ntoh Nkuo, the Permanent Secretary of the Cameroon National Zoonoses Program, the Government of the Republic of Cameroon commits itself to ensure health security in the country through capacity building of the national Zoonoses Program and the effective implementation of the One Health concept.

During the roundtable discussion, the USAID Country Representative, Paul Richardson highlighted that since 2012, the U.S. Government had provided support to strengthen Cameroon’s capacities to prevent, rapidly detect, and respond adequately to zoonotic and other rare disease outbreaks.

By Nji Nelson Chefor

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