The Plague: Spreading in Madagascar – and Seychelles?

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Health officials in Seychelles have confirmed that 1 person has tested positive for the Pneumonic plague, and he is currently in isolation and being treated with antibiotics.

A Seychellois basketball coach died from the disease late last month in a hospital in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, according to Today in Seychelles, where 42 people have died from the “Black Death.”

The coach, Alix Allisop, was assisting the Seychelles men’s reigning champion of the Beau Vallon Heat in Madagascar during the Indian Ocean Club Championship. The government of Madagascar over the weekend confirmed that the death of Allisop was due to the pneumonic plague. The other members of the Seychellois basketball delegation, who were in close contact with Allisop, have been under observation since they returned to the country, Gedeon said. They are now at the military academy at Perseverance, a reclaimed island on the outskirts of Victoria.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) pneumonic plague, or lung-based plague, is the most virulent form and can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air, as well as flea bites from infected mammals. The incubation period can be as short as 24 hours.

According to the Seychelles News Agency, the Seychelles’ Ministry of Health on Wednesday advised all airlines and travel agents to discourage people from traveling to Madagascar due to the plague outbreak. Additional health measures at Seychelles’ main airport have also been put in place.

Jude Gedeon, Seychelles’ public health commissioner, said that officials have put in place walk-through and temperature scanners at the international airport to detect cases. A form is also being given to disembarked passengers to state if they have any symptoms similar to those brought on by the plague.

Additionally, two schools have confirmed that they are closing for the rest of the week, because of a lack of teachers within these institutions, since they have been given 6 days leave and have been placed on passive surveillance at home due to suspected direct contact with the confirmed case. Although they do not have any symptoms, everyone on surveillance is also being given precautionary treatment.

In Madagascar, public gatherings have now been banned in the capital, where at least 114 people have been infected since the outbreak was identified in late August.

The plague as often thought of as a thing from medieval history, but it still thrives in Madagascar, where the disease is a seasonal worry. The country is experiencing what may be its deadliest outbreak in years with close to 200 people suspected to have fallen ill from the plague since August, according to Madagascar’s Ministry of Health.

The majority of this year’s cases are pneumonic plague, which can be transmitted through coughing, and can kill an infected person in less than a day. To slow the outbreak, Madagascar is temporarily shutting down its public institutions. Government authorities ordered two universities to close, and other schools have shut their doors across the country, including the capital, Antananarivo, so buildings can be sprayed with insecticides.

The bubonic plague is normally treatable with antibiotics, and the World Health Organization has shipped more than a million doses of antibiotics to the country. However, if left untreated, the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to the lungs and cause pneumonic plague, with symptoms similar to the common cold.

Without antibiotics, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, becoming pneumonic, where those infected will develop shortness of breath, chest pain, and sometimes bloody or watery mucous. Left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly to death.

The plague is most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar – areas which account for more than 95 percent of reported cases, according to the CDC. Madagascar often sees the highest numbers of bubonic plague cases worldwide, with about 600 infections annually.