There is currently an unprecedented outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague in Madagascar. Plague is endemic to Madagascar, where approximately 500 cases are reported every year. Unusually, this outbreak is affecting large urban areas, which increases the risk of transmission.
Affected areas include the capital, Antananarivo, and the port city of Toamasina.
Cases of plague are rare amongst international travellers.
TRAVELLING TO MADAGASCAR?
Make sure you are covered by travel insurance that covers your medical expenses and repatriation in an emergency.
Be aware that pneumonic plague is spread by person-to-person transmission. Bubonic plague is spread by infected rats via flea bites.
If you are in an area where plague occurs, or where there is an outbreak, take precautions against infection. These can include avoiding crowded places and contact with infected animals or people and protecting against flea bites – especially if you are staying in very basic rural accommodation, or have close contact with rats or other rodents.
Seek immediate medical advice if you do come into contact with an infected person or animal, or If you experience sudden symptoms of fever, chills, painful and inflamed lymph nodes, or shortness of breath with coughing and/or blood-tainted sputum.
THE FACTS ABOUT PLAGUE
Historically, plague was responsible for widespread pandemics. It was known as the "Black Death" during the fourteenth century, causing more than 50 million deaths in Europe.
Nowadays, although there is no vaccine for plague, it is easily treated with antibiotics and can be prevented with sensible precautions.
“The risk of regional spread is moderate, due to the occurrence of frequent travel by air and sea to neighbouring Indian Ocean islands and other southern and east African countries. This risk is mitigated by the short incubation period of pneumonic plague, implementation of exit screening measures and scaling up of preparedness and operational readiness activities in neighbouring Indian Ocean islands and other southern and eastern African countries. The overall global risk is considered to be low.
“Nine countries and overseas territories have been identified as priority countries in the African region for plague preparedness and readiness by virtue of having trade and travel links to Madagascar. These countries and overseas territories include Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, La Réunion (France), Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania.”