South Africa is among nine countries identified by the World Health Organisation as priority areas to be prepared for the plague (Black Death) as the deadly disease spreads through Madagascar. The other countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Réunion, Seychelles and Tanzania.
Madagascar has recently experienced a large outbreak of the plague, also known as the black plague. The disease has already claimed 124 lives in Madagascar and about 1,200 cases have thus far been recorded. WHO reported that:
“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 Department of Health has already advised travelers to Madagascar to avoid densely populated areas and to wear surgical masks while in transit. Screening measures at ports of entry have been enhanced to detect ill passengers.
Symptoms of the plague are:
- Sudden onset of fever, chills, head and body aches, weakness, vomiting and nausea;
- Painful and inflamed lymph nodes can also appear during bubonic plague; and
- Symptoms of the pneumonic form appear quickly after infection and include severe respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath and coughing, often with blood-tainted sputum.
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.