Kuijpers LMF, Gryseels C, Uk S, Chung P, Bory S, Sreng B, Parry A, Jacobs J, Peeters Grietens K
Enteric fever is a systemic bacterial infection in humans that is endemic in Cambodia and for which antibiotic resistance is increasingly reported. To guide public health programs, this qualitative study sought to explore community perceptions on transmission and treatment. Participant observation was carried out in hospital settings, pharmacies, and at a community level in Phnom Penh. In-depth interviews 39 and one focus group discussion were carried out with blood culture-confirmed enteric fever patients and purposively selected key informants. Informants were theoretically sampled based on initial themes identified using abductive analysis. Nvivo 11 was used for thematic coding. An urgent need to address health literacy concerning the transmission of enteric fever was identified, as lay informants did not link the disease and its symptoms to bacterial contamination of foods and drinks but rather to foods considered “bad” following humoral illness interpretations. As a result, lay informants considered recurrence of enteric fever preventable with appropriate dietary restrictions and Khmer traditional medicines. This study also reveals pluralistic health-care-seeking behavior. For initial and mild symptoms, patients preferred home treatment or traditional healing practices; limited household finances delayed treatment seeking. When symptoms persisted, patients first visited drug outlets or private practitioners, where they received a mix of nonessential medicines and one or more antibiotics often without prescription or confirmation of diagnosis. Inappropriate use of antibiotics was common and was related to diagnostic uncertainty and limited finances, factors which should be addressed during future efforts to improve the uptake of appropriate diagnostics and treatment of enteric fever.
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