By Ahaoma Oji Kanu The University of Benin Teaching Hospital (…
The interconnected nature of the world requires vigilance from government and citizens when it comes to health and the outbreak of disease in one place is cause for concern in others as the experience with Ebola, Lassa fever and Monkey pox in Nigeria have proven.
A new threat is emerging from Madagascar with an outbreak of plague in the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains it thus:
“From 1 August through 30 October 2017, a total of 1801 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, including 127 deaths, have been reported by the Ministry of Health of Madagascar to WHO. Of these, 1111 (62%) were clinically classified as pneumonic plague, including 257 (23%) confirmed, 374 (34%) probable and 480 (43%) suspected cases. In addition to the pneumonic cases, 261 (15%) cases of bubonic plague, one case of septicaemic plague and 428 cases (24%) where the type has not yet been specified, have been reported (Figure 1). As of 30 October, 51 of 114 districts of Madagascar have been affected (Figure 2 and 3). Since the beginning of the outbreak, 71 healthcare workers have had illness compatible with plague, none of whom have died.”
While the risk of pneumonic plague in particular and other less occurring strains may not be immediate, there are travel links between Nigeria and Madagascar and as WHO explains, it is important for people that have travelled to Madagascar to be careful while in the country and after they return.
WHO specifically advises:
“International travellers arriving in Madagascar should be informed about the current plague outbreak and the necessary protection measures. Travellers should protect themselves against flea bites, avoid contact with dead animals, infected tissues or materials, and avoid close contact with patients with pneumonic plague. In case of sudden symptoms of fever, chills, painful and inflamed lymph nodes, or shortness of breath with coughing and/or blood-tainted sputum, travellers should immediately contact a medical service. Travellers should avoid self-medication, even if for prophylaxis. Prophylactic treatment is only recommended for persons who have been in close contact with cases, or with other high risk exposures (such as bites from fleas or direct contact with body fluids or tissues of infected animals). Upon return from travel to Madagascar, travellers should be on alert for the above symptoms. If symptoms appear, travellers should seek medical care and inform their physician about their travel history to Madagascar.”
There is also the need for Nigerian authorities to monitor this situation in Madagascar and ensure that people coming from there do not spread the disease to Nigeria.