The Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Port and Marine together with the Seychelles Tourism Board have announced that a decision has been taken to restrict entry of travelers coming from Madagascar.
The decision is at the request of the Public Health Authority and is a preventive measure being taken due to the heightened risk of introducing the pneumonic plague into Seychelles, which is currently ravaging Madagascar.
The Seychelles’ Health Ministry has confirmed that the country detected its first probable case of the pneumonic plague on Tuesday. The patient is a Seychellois man who came back from Madagascar on an Air Seychelles flight on Friday 6th October. Rapid tests were done after the man started to develop symptoms including fever on Monday, and the tests turned out positive. Official confirmation tests are now being done on blood samples sent to a reference laboratory overseas, more precisely to the Pasteur Institute in France.
The Seychelles authorities are on high alert ever since it was confirmed that a Seychellois basketball coach, died in a hospital in Madagascar last month, after contracting the disease.
Both the Tourism Ministry and Seychelles Tourism Board are counting on all airlines flying to Seychelles to cooperate and refrain from boarding any travelers coming to Seychelles from Madagascar for the moment. Any traveler who slips through the system or transits through Seychelles from Madagascar will be given the option to go back immediately, otherwise they will have to go into an isolation center for six days.
The isolation center located at the Seychelles Coast Guard military academy is already in place for all incoming passengers (visitors and residents) who arrive in Seychelles from Madagascar via other routes, as the national airline, Air Seychelles has already cancelled its direct flights to Madagascar over the weekend, at the request of the public health authority.
Both the Tourism Ministry and STB have reiterated that all tourists currently holidaying in Seychelles are free to enjoy their holiday and that the restriction to enter the country is only targeting travellers entering Seychelles from Madagascar.
The Seychelles’ health authorities are also working with tour operators to discourage Seychelles’ residents from travelling to Madagascar. People who have been to the neighboring Indian Ocean island within the last 7 days have already been put under surveillance and are being followed by health officials in a systematic manner.
It is important to note that so far only one case of the pneumonic plague has been confirmed in Seychelles itself. The person in questions has been admitted in isolation at the Seychelles hospital and is being administered with antibiotics, more precisely prophylaxis, and is responding well to the treatment according to the health authorities. The Ministry of Health has said that his immediate family, including his partner, a child living with them as well as a close friend, have also been admitted in isolation after they also started to develop fever, as a precautionary measure. They are also being administered with treatment, as it is the protocol to prescribe treatment to people who have had first line exposure with a known infected person.
The Ministry of Health is following up with people who may have had contact with the infected person, after it was learnt that he had disobeyed instructions to remain under surveillance at his home after coming back from Madagascar and had attended a gathering. Answering an urgent question in the national assembly this morning, the Health Minister Jean Paul Adam confirmed that these people, mainly teachers, who were at the function are on sick leave for 6 days and are being administered with treatment purely as a precautionary measure.
So far it has been confirmed that at least two schools have decided to close. Minister Adam said in the assembly that there has not been any request from the health authorities to close the schools, but they may have taken the decision as several of their staff are on treatment are on sick leave, as they were at the function attended by the infected person.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the signs and symptoms of the plague can include sudden fever, chills, painful and inflamed lymph nodes, or shortness of breath with coughing where the saliva or mucus is tainted with blood. The plague can be cured using common antibiotics if delivered early and antibiotics can also help prevent infection among people who have been exposed to the disease.