Red Cross volunteers talk to villagers about the plague outbreak, 45km west of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Picture: AP
Durban - South African health authorities are on alert for possible imported cases of the plague. This, as almost 1 300 suspected cases have been reported in Madagascar.
 
It was confirmed that there were no cases in South Africa at a press briefing with the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Tuesday.
 
But, with Madagascar - where 93 people have died from the plague - being just one direct flight away, authorities are on their guard.
 
Travellers coming in from the island are screened on arrival for fever or cough, read an NICD statement. “Any ill passenger will be assessed in the airport clinic.” 
 
Madagascar is also screening all travellers leaving the country to prevent ill persons from boarding aircraft and this appears to have been effective thus far.
 
Since August, there have been 1300 suspected cases of plague but it is an annual occurrence in Madagascar. This year’s outbreak has raised particular concerns as it affecting urban centres. 
 
The majority of cases (65%) are  pneumonic plague, rather than the usual bubonic form.
 
The NICD has specialised testing available to detect plague. If a suspected case arrives in South Africa‚ the country has a network of communicable disease workers, who would trace the patient’s contacts and offer preventive antibiotics if required.
 
The WHO has advised that no travel and trade restrictions are required.

The Mercury