26 October 2017

South Africa: SA at Risk of Importing Plague

Photo: Bernard Gagnon/Wikipedia
Market in Analakely, Antananarivo, Madagascar (file photo).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says nine countries, including South Africa, are at a high risk for importing the plague which has claimed over 100 lives in Madagascar.

The WHO said nine countries namely: South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Comoros, Seychelles and La Reunion, are at high risk due to the trade and travel between Madagascar and these countries.

The latest WHO report, released on 20 October 2017, regarding the plague outbreak in Madagascar indicated 1297 cases and 102 deaths have been reported to health authorities there. The majority of cases (65%) are presenting as pneumonic plague, rather than the usual bubonic form.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has advised South African travellers to Madagascar to avoid highly populated areas and to wear surgical masks while in transit.

It has further advised travellers to liberally apply DEET-containing insect repellent to prevent flea bites.

"All travellers returning from Madagascar must monitor their health for 15 days and seek medical care immediately at their nearest health facility if they develop fever, chills, head and body aches, painful and inflamed lymph nodes, or shortness of breath with coughing and/or blood-tainted sputum.

"They should tell the doctor about their recent travel and their symptoms. Persons with fever should also be tested for malaria," the institute said on Thursday.

The South African National Department of Health, with support from the NICD and the WHO Country Office have been working together to ensure the safety of the public.

All airline companies have been alerted to remain vigilant for suspected ill passengers. The Civil Aviation Authority has conducted refresher training for members in the event that suspected cases are identified.

Also, port health officials have enhanced their screening measures to detect and respond to ill passengers arriving in the country.

The provincial outbreak response teams have been alerted of the outbreak to enhance preparedness and implement response measures in the event that a case is detected in the country

The NICD said it has the laboratory capacity to diagnose the plague cases and is actively supporting preparedness measures in the country.

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