NAIROBI, Kenya’s government is on high alert after a plague epidemic, the Marburg Virus Disease (MVD), was confirmed in Madagascar where a total of 684 cases and 57 deaths have been reported between Aug 1 and Oct 12, 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the cases have been reported from 18 out of 22 regions in the island nation, including traditionally non-endemic areas.

The Ministry of Health here is on alert following the confirmation of a case of MVD in Kween district of eastern Uganda by that neighbouring country’s Ministry of Health.

In a notice issued on Tuesday, the Ministry’s Director of Medical Services, Kioko Jackson, directed all healthcare workers and health institutions to immediately initiate preparedness and response measures to prevent the spread of the fatal disease in Kenya.

According to WHO risk assessment, Kenya has been classified as at moderate risk of potential spread of plague because of its travel inter-connection with Madagascar. There are more than 20 weekly flights between Madagascar and Kenya.

County Health Management Teams, Sub-County Health Management Team, Hospital Health Management teams, Health workers in hospitals and those at points of entry are asked to watch out for signs of the disease and to report all suspected cases immediately to the Disease Surveillance and Response Unit or the Ministry of Health.

MVD, a bacterial disease, may be transmitted to humans and animals by any of the following ways — the bite of infected fleas; direct contact with infected fluids or tissues (either human or other infected animals); and inhalation of infected respiratory droplets.

It can be a very severe disease with a case-fatality ratio of 30% to 100% if untreated. The disease develops within one to seven days after infection and symptoms include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, body aches, body weakness, nausea and vomiting.

If diagnosed early, antibiotic treatment is effective against the plague bacteria, so early diagnosis and early treatment is key.