World News

Plague ruled out in Seychelles but islands on guard - WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Plague has been ruled out in the Seychelles following lab results from 10 patients, including one earlier deemed a “probable” case, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday as the disease continued to spread in Madagascar.

The U.N. health body initially raised the alarm on Monday after initial tests on a 34-year-old man who had arrived from Madagascar. A confirmed case would have marked the first recorded appearance of the disease on the Indian Ocean island chain.

But all 10 samples have now tested negative for plague at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the WHO said in a statement.

“We are working with health authorities to reduce the risk of the spread of plague in the Seychelles by improving surveillance and preparedness,” said Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO regional emergencies director for the Africa region.

Plague, which is mainly spread by flea-carrying rats, is endemic in Madagascar where 805 cases have been reported since late August, including 74 deaths, the Madagascar health ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook late on Monday.

Nearly 600 of the reported cases in Madagascar were the pneumonic form, which is spread human-to-human and is more dangerous than bubonic plague spread by fleas, it said.

The pneumonic form invades the lungs, and is treatable with antibiotics. If not treated, it is always fatal and can kill a person within 24 hours.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens