Updated: The Plague Has Not Spread from Madagascar to Seychelles
Eleven people have been hospitalized.
UPDATE: The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that the Plague has been ruled out in the Seychelles, after lab results from 10 patients tested negative at the Institute Pasteur in Paris.
“We are working with health authorities to reduce the risk of the spread of plague in the Seychelles by improving surveillance and preparedness,” Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO regional emergencies director for the Africa region told Reuters.
Seychelles health authorities reported a probable cause of pneumonic plague on Oct. 10, after a 34-year-old man returned from Madagascar; initial diagnostic tests were also given to eight other people in contact with the man, who were isolated and hospitalized for mild symptoms, Eyewitness news reported.
Health officials took precautionary measures by testing 11 people in total, including one foreign national who was not exposed to the probable case but recently arrived from Madagascar. Nearly 1,000 people exposed to the man and others experiencing mild symptoms were given antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection, Eyewitness news reported.
“The risk of further spread in the Seychelles (should the case be confirmed) is considered as low and the overall regional and global risk levels as very low,” the WHO said.
The plague, which is spread by fleas and rats, is endemic in Madagascar. As of August, 57 people have died from the disease that has spread through multiple cities, such as the capital of Antananarivo, according to the United Nations health agency.
The plague that has infected more than 200 people and killed more than 30 in Madagascar in recent weeks has apparently crossed the Indian Ocean.
A man in the Seychelles was diagnosed on October 10 a “probable case” of plague, according to the World Health Organization. The 34-year-old had traveled to Madagascar, where authorities believe he was infected.
The current outbreak of the ancient disease known as pneumonic plague has spread rapidly in Madagascar. In a typical year, some 400 people in Madagascar contract a less serious form of the disease, bubonic plague. More than 200 have contracted the more serious form of pneumonic plague since August. .
The first diagnostic test on the patient came back “weakly positive” and so authorities ordered definitive laboratory results, which are not yet in, according to the organization.
The plague is often found in impoverished places and is spread by human contact with fleas that carry the bacteria, or small animals or other humans who have already picked it up. Global Citizen campaigns on increased access to health care and ending extreme poverty. You can take action here.
The WHO has shipped emergency supplies of antibiotics to Madagascar, and has given prophylactic treatments to nearly 1,000 people who came in contact with the man from Seychelles, including his kids and their teachers, people who flew on the plane with him, and health workers.
Eight people he came into contact with developed symptoms and have been put in isolation, and 11 people he came into contact with are hospitalized as a precaution, according to WHO.
The country immediately created a Crisis Emergency Committee and hotline in case of other cases, the WHO said.
Madagascar has tried to stop the spread of plague by canceling outdoor gatherings and sports competitions and warning potential tourists to avoid the island nation for now.
Seychelles, which depends on tourism for much of its income, has no restrictions on travel.
The WHO said further spread of the disease is “unlikely.”