Human plague outbreak warning for UK travellers heading to Madagascar
Britain has warned those travelling to Madagascar of the latest plague outbreak which has killed at least 33 people.
The UK Foreign Office says although pneumonic and bubonic plague cases in the nation tend to be seasonal in rural areas, the disease has spread into urban areas this year including Antananarivo.
The deaths reported come from ten regions and 47 new cases were reported on October 3 alone. All in all, 231 infections have been reported since August. Most cases are from the eastern part of the island where the first death was reported on August 28. The central part of Madagascar, around Antananarivo, is second worst affected.
The spread has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to up its fight against the plague delivering nearly 1.2million doses of antibiotics in the country.
"Plague is curable if detected in time. Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save," said Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO spokesperson in Madagascar.
There are two main forms of plague - bubonic plague is spread by infected rats through flea bites. WHO says most cases are associated with the pneumonic plague - a more deadly form of the disease that affects human lungs and can be spread through coughing at close range.
Prime Minister Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana banned all public gatherings in a televised message on September 30. Some schools have closed around the country and authorities shut down the two main universities in Toamasina and Antananarivo.
Seychelles’ national airline temporarily suspended all flights to Madagascar on October 6. Many Malagasy nationals travel to the Seychelles for work.
The UK Foreign Office has not advised against travel but says those going to Madagascar should ideally arrange an appointment with a health professional before travel. Travel Health Pro also recommends travellers have adequate travel health insurance.