National Institute for Communicable Diseases deputy directors professor John Frean and professor Lucille Blumberg brief the media on the plague outbreak in Madagascar. Picture: Noni Mokati
Johannesburg - The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa has reiterated that there is no reason to panic and that it is safe to travel across Africa.

This comes as Madagascar deals with a plague outbreak.

Addressing the media on Tuesday morning in Sandringham, NICD deputy director Professor Lucille Blumberg said the plague, which has seen almost 1 297 reported cases and 102 deaths, is under control.

"There are no plague cases in South Africa and no plague cases have been exported from Madagascar to other countries. There are also no travel or trade restrictions for Madagascar," she said.

There have been fears that plague could potentially spread across the globe but health experts have allayed concerns saying there's no need for worry.

Blumberg said while Malaria is also a concern for those traveling outside SA, people who have recently traveled to the island nation off the southeast coast of Africa and present plague-like symptoms which include fever, headache, weakness, chest pains, a cough and a rapidly developing pneumonia with a shortness of breath should seek medical attention.

"Such symptoms could also mimick other diseases but those who are worried can get tested," she said, adding the NICD has three national plague surveillance sites across the country and screening sites at Airports and other ports of entry.

And while there is one flight that travels to Madagascar from South Africa every week, Blumberg said all the passengers are screened and the necessary precautions are taken.

Meanwhile, a South African basketball official who was in contact with a Seychelles coach who contracted plague and later died, is doing well.

Professor Jean Frean, also deputy director at the NICD, said the man was admitted in the Capital City of Madagascar, Antananarivo on October 2 after he tested positive for plague. He was treated and returned to SA in mid-October. His three companions tested negative.

Frean emphasized that plague, a bacterial disease, has been around for years and that recent headlines around it have been sensationalised.

"It is inappropriate to term it as the 'black death'. There are now ample antibiotics that can be used to treat the disease," he said.

There are three types of plague namely bubonic, septicaemic, and pneumonic plague.

Plague is transmitted to humans through the bite by a rate flea infected with the disease. People can also get infected through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or tissue while handling a sick or dead animal that was infected with the plague.

The last case of human plague in SA was reported in 1982 in Coega in the Eastern Cape.

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