Observations on the endemicity of plague in Karatu and Ngorongoro, northern Tanzania

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Commensal and field rodents and wild small carnivores were live-trapped in five villages of Karatu district and one settlement in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Ngorongoro district in Tanzania. Blood samples were taken and serologically tested for plague, using the Blocking ELISA technique. Some domestic dogs and cats in the Karatu villages were aseptically bled and similarly tested for plague. Fleas were collected from the examined animals and from randomly selected residential houses. A total of 241 rodents, 1 Crocidura spp, 43 dogs, 12 cats and 4 slender mongooses were involved in the survey. Of the rodents, 14.5% were infested with fleas, which comprised of Xenopsylla brasiliensis (45.8%) and Dinopsyllus lypusus (54.2%), with an overall population density of 0.2 fleas/animal. Thirty one (72.1%) of the dogs were infested with fleas, all of which were Ctenocephalides spp. Thirty five (63.3%) houses were infested with fleas whose population was composed of Ctenocephalides spp, Pulex irritans, Tunga penetrans and Echinophaga gallinacea. Infected rodents were found in all the villages while the infected dog was found at Rhotia-Kati. Nineteen (11%) of the rodents and one (2%) dog harboured specific plague antibodies. It was broadly concluded that sylvatic plague was endemic in Karatu district and Ngorongoro Conservation Area and that outbreaks of the disease can occur in the area any time if and when relevant conditions become favourable. Prompt application of appropriate preventive and control measures and survey for substantiating the status in the Lake Manyara National Park, which is adjacent to some of the infected villages, are recommended.


Tanzania health research bulletin, 2006, 8(1)


Plague, fleas, rodents, carnivores, Tanzania