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Alert: Plague Spreads Towards Malawi – Multiple Countries at Risk

Saturday, November 11, 2017 13:41
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The Madagascar plague outbreak has prompted officials in Malawi to put the country on high alert. Escalating fears are that the disease will spread across international borders in what has become the “worst outbreak in 50 years”.

Officials say the number of reported pneumonic cases in Madagascar is slowly declining – although more cases of plague are expected as the country enters peak epidemic season, which is due to last until April.

Now, Malawi’s health secretary has confirmed the country is ready for any outbreaks amid concerns over the African nation’s “porous borders”.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Dan Namarika, said Malawi has “cross border teams that interface with our Mozambique counterparts”.

Mozambique is situated between Malawi and Madagascar and would likely report plague cases before they hit Malawi, but the country’s health officials have been briefed on plague symptoms just in case there are any outbreaks.

Dr Namarika added: “We have infection prevention materials ready and groups and teams ready to be activated if there is a trigger.”

Malawi’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Dan Namarika

The last plague cases in Malawi were reported in 2002, but the situation was successfully contained.

Dr. Tim Jagatic, with Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), told about the cause of this year’s shocking outbreak.

He said: “From November until April, there tends to be an outbreak of an average of 400 cases of bubonic plague per year.

“But what happened this year is it looks like there was a case which happened a little bit earlier, in the month of August.

“If a bubonic case goes untreated, it has the ability to transform into the pneumonic form.

“It seems as though somebody who had the bubonic form didn’t get treatment, allowing the plague to transform into the pneumonic form.

“He entered the capital city and then fell sick on a bus that was traveling to Toamasina, and a medical student tried to help him.

“The medical student came into close contact with him and because it was the pneumonic form of the disease, happening earlier than it’s expected to in a part of the country where it typically doesn’t occur, it went unnoticed for a particular amount of time which allowed the disease to proliferate.”

Dr. Jagatic added: “A very important part of epidemiology is trying to find who or what was ‘patient zero’, so that we’ll be able to track exactly how it spread, what dangers it poses, who was in contact with that person.

“Once we find that out, it really helps us to cut the chain of transmission and find out what areas of a country we have to focus our resources on.”




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