Plague: SA authorities “on guard”

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South African health authorities are on alert for possible imported cases of the plague following a warning issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week that the disease could easily spread across Madagascar’s borders.

Thus far, almost 1 300 suspected cases have been reported in Madagascar and the WHO issued a warning to nine additional countries: South Africa, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Réunion, the Seychelles, and Tanzania.

A WHO report on the disease notes that, South Africa in particular, is at risk given its travel and trade connections with Madagascar.

It was confirmed that there were no cases in South Africa at a press briefing with the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 31 October. However, officials noted that with Madagascar being just one direct flight away, authorities are on their guard.

Travellers coming in from the island are screened on arrival for fever or cough, read an NICD statement. “Any ill passenger will be assessed in the airport clinic.”

Madagascar is also screening all travellers leaving the country to prevent ill persons from boarding aircraft and this appears to have been effective thus far.