In the past couple of weeks, there have been reports of isolated incidents of the plague in the island nation of Madagascar. Reports like these are not uncommon around this time of year as it is the rainy season and the rains drive the rats out of the forests to seek shelter in the towns. The Bubonic plague is carried by the rats and is spread by the flea bites of fleas who have bitten infected rats.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in America has not issued any travel restrictions to Madagascar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also not issued any travel restrictions and are not advising against travel to the region. The WHO is closely monitoring the situation, as well as working with the local government to curb infection.
From the World Health Organization:
Advice for international travellers
Based on the available information to date, the risk of international spread of plague appears very low. WHO advises against any restriction on travel or trade on Madagascar based on the available information. International travellers should be informed about the current plague outbreak, the fact that plague is endemic in Madagascar, and should receive advice on prevention, post exposure chemoprophylaxis, and where to seek medical treatment should they develop plague related symptoms.
Since we started travelling to Madagascar there have been several plague outbreaks, usually one every year since the 1980s between the months of September and March and no tourists have ever been affected.
The plague customarily occurs in rural or slum areas of Madagascar which fall outside of the tour routes we take clients on through the country.
According to the WHO the areas affected are:
As of 30 September, 10 cities have reported pneumonic plague cases and the three most affected districts include: the capital city and suburbs of Antananarivo, Toamasina, and Faratshio.
The affected areas in Antananarivo are: Antohomadinika, Soavimasoandro, Andraisoro, Manjakaray, Ambodihady, Ambohimanarina, Ankadilalampotsy, Ankaraobato, Fort-Duchesne (Ampandrianomby), Cité 67ha, Anjanahary. None of the hotels we use are in these areas. There are also no tourist attractions in these areas.
The government along with the WHO has put the necessary measures in place to ensure that it doesn’t spread. They are spraying areas with insect repellant, placing out rat-traps and have canceled large public gatherings. The WHO has also delivered 1.2 million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar.
“Plague is curable if detected in time. Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save,” said Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO Representative in Madagascar.
As Bubonic plague is spread by rats, specifically the fleas on rats. Travellers whose minds would be put at ease by using extra caution can apply a good insect repellant. The disease is treatable by antibiotics if caught in time so if travellers are feeling any symptoms they should alert their guide and seek immediate medical attention.
Guides on all our tours will do a detailed briefing with guests on arrival, they themselves having been fully briefed and prepared. Furthermore, they will take extra note of the well-being of the guests and will be able to act quickly should anyone have a concern.
We are confident that the government and the WHO are capably and effectively taking charge of the situation and there is no reason for concern or reconsidering of travel plans.