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Kenya places Seychelles on Plague watch list

A doctor helps a little girl to put on her protective mask at the health centre Plague Triage and Treatment Center, in Toamasina, Madagascar on October 25, 2017. AFP PHOTO | Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) | RIJASOLO
A doctor helps a little girl to put on her protective mask at the health centre Plague Triage and Treatment Center, in Toamasina, Madagascar on October 25, 2017. AFP PHOTO | Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) | RIJASOLO  

Kenya has added Seychelles to the list of countries that will be placed under increased scrutiny following a possible case of plague in the island archipelago.

The Seychellois Ministry of Health has notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a 34-year-old man who had visited Madagascar and returned to Seychelles with possible symptoms amid a plague outbreak that has killed more than 100 people in the neighbouring country.

Kenya's Health ministry has now asked the 47 counties to initiate preparedness and response measures to prevent the disease since the island country is a top tourist destination for Kenyans.

“All teams must watch out for patients with a history of travel from Madagascar or Seychelles presenting with one or more of the flowing symptoms; acute onset of fever, chills, headache, severe malaise, prostration and cough with blood,” said Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko in his letter to counties.

He has asked the council of governors (CoG) to involve all county, Sub-County and hospitals health management teams, health workers in hospitals and those at points of entry in “promptly detecting, notifying and appropriately managing suspected cases if the outbreak spread to Kenya”.

“They should also watch out for febrile illnesses and unexplained deaths,” the letter adds.

Plague response

The WHO was seeking $5.5 million (about Sh560 million) as at October 1, to support the plague response in Madagascar where over 100 people had died out of the over 1,100 reported cases of infection since August.

The global health body, however, says there is a very low risk that international travellers would come into contact with plague in at this stage.

Plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, a zoonotic bacteria usually found in small mammals and their fleas.

It may be transmitted to humans through bites from infected fleas, direct contact with infected fluids or tissues (either human or other infected animals) and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets.

Although the disease can be cured with antibiotics and supportive care if diagnosed early, it can be very severe with a case-fatality ratio of 30 per cent to 100 per cent if untreated.

The disease develops within one to seven days after infection.

Symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, stained sputum, chest pain and difficulty in breathing.

The intensified plague preparedness in Kenya also come in the wake of two deaths reported in neighbouring Uganda caused by yet another outbreak – the Marburg virus disease.

Dr Kioko has asked counties to strengthen surveillance up to the village level for missed or unreported cases, while strengthening involvement of laboratory personnel.

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