S. Africa issues warning to travelers to Madagascar following outbreak of plague

CAPE TOWN, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- South Africa on Thursday warned South Africans travelling to Madagascar following an outbreak of plague in that country.

South African travellers to Madagascar are advised to avoid highly populated areas, and to wear surgical masks while in transit, the Department of Health said.

This came after the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed 449 plague cases in Madagascar, with 48 deaths. The outbreak is primarily located in the middle third of the island, around the Antananarivo and Toamasina Province on the east coast.

There is international concern regarding infection with the bacterium after a South African basketball player, who was attending the Indian Ocean Club Championships, contracted the disease while being there. The basketball player was successfully treated in Madagascar and has returned to South Africa.

In order to prevent the importation of plague into South Africa, the Department of Health has alerted all airline companies to remain vigilant for suspected ill passengers.

Meanwhile, port health officials have enhanced their screening measures to detect ill passengers arriving in South Africa.

All provincial response teams have been mobilized to enhance preparedness and implement response measures in the event that a case is detected in the country, spokesperson Popo Maja said.

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, said Maja.

"They should tell the doctor about their recent travel and their symptoms," he added.

Plague is a zoonotic disease caused by a bacterium Yersinia pestis. Where plague is endemic, it is usually found in rodents and is spread by fleas from rodent to rodent, or to other mammals. Humans may acquire plague from persons with pneumonic plague through droplet transmission or from direct contact with infected rodents or through the bite of an infected flea.

Symptoms of pneumonic plague include cough, fever and chest pain.

The WHO has classified the outbreak in Madagascar as Grade 2 with the level of risk for local spread being high. Risk to the region is moderate because of frequent air and sea travel, but the global risk is perceived to be low.

[ Editor: meng ]
 

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