SA identified by World Health Organisation as priority country for plague

Thursday, October 26, 2017
By Paul Martin

News24.com
2017-10-25

Johannesburg – South Africa is one of nine countries which have been prioritised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prepare itself for possible “black death” plague cases.

This was due to its trade and travel links with Madagascar.

The other eight countries at risk include the Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, France’s La Réunion, the Seychelles, and Tanzania.

A recent update on the outbreak, released in a WHO report, stated that South Africa’s travel and trade links with Madagascar, where the outbreak has already killed 124 people and infected 1 133, has put it at risk.

The organisation says that the overall risk of the plague is very high in Madagascar and that, depending on the type of plague, there is a 30 to 100% chance of death within 72 hours if it is left untreated.

Antibiotics can be used to treat it upon early detection.

The risk of regional spread was moderate, while the overall global risk was very low.

“Historically, the plague was responsible for widespread pandemics with high mortality. It was known as the ‘Black Death’ during the fourteenth century, causing more than 50 million deaths in Europe.

“Nowadays, the plague is easily treated with antibiotics and the use of standard precautions to prevent acquiring infection,” the report stated.

Madagascar was reportedly hit with the black death in September, and health authorities are concerned because it has affected urban areas, increasing the risk of transmission and spread, according to the WHO.

“Some of the neighbouring countries, namely Comoros, Mauritius and South Africa, have put in place measures to protect their population, including entry screening, information provision to passengers on how to seek medical care in case of symptoms, and other preparedness measures,” the report stated.

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