Madagascar plague not likely to hit Kenya any time soon, says WHO

The plague that has hit Madagascar is unlikely to spread to Kenya, WHO has said.

It yesterday said Kenya is not among the eight key countries immediately at risk.

The countries are the Comoros, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion and Mayotte, the Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania.

WHO said these countries were prioritised for increased plague preparedness and surveillance because they neighbour Madagascar.

“WHO has also helped Ethiopia and Kenya to raise preparedness levels because of their direct airline connections with Madagascar,” the organisation said in a statement.

There are more than 20 weekly flights between Madagascar and Kenya.  For any ordinary traveller, the risk of infection has always been low, and there have been no confirmed cases of plague in travellers leaving Madagascar for other countries.

Director of medical services Jackson Kioko said Kenya has put in place measures to prevent risk of spread.

“All aircraft from Madagascar and Uganda must submit health declaration forms to be allowed into the country,” he said. Ships from Madagascar will also be required to submit maritime health declaration forms and deratting certificates.

From August to late October, more than 1,800 suspected, probable or confirmed plague cases were reported, resulting in 127 deaths.

Experts said it is possible the plague is already under control, but WHO is being cautious because there are still concerns about maintaining the momentum because of the enormous resources required. There are still five months to go before the end of the plague season, WHO said.

Then plague is one of the oldest – and most feared – diseases. Historically, the plague has been responsible for widespread pandemics with high mortality. Nowadays, the plague is easily prevented and treated with antibiotics if detected early enough and infection can be prevented through the use of standard precautions.  “The challenges it poses today are fundamentally different from what we had 40 years ago,” Dr Sylvie Briand, the director of WHO’s infectious hazard management department, said.


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