PLAGUE WREAKS HAVOC IN MADAGASCAR
An unusually widespread outbreak of the plague is menacing Madagascar. At least 24 people have died and more than 130 have been infected with plague across the country, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Plague is endemic to the country, but “contrary to past outbreaks, this one is affecting larger urban areas and ports, which increases the risk of person-to-person transmission”, said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.
Among the reported cases, almost 60 were the more common bubonic plague, including seven deaths. More than 70 – including 17 deaths – are suspected to be pneumonic plague.
Ten cities were reporting pneumonic cases, including the capital, Antananarivo, increasing chances of the disease spreading.
Plague is typically spread through the bite of infected fleas, frequently carried by rats, causing bubonic plague. Symptoms include painful, swollen lymph nodes, called bubos, as well as fever, chills and coughing.
Pneumonic plague is more virulent and is an advanced form characterised by a severe lung infection. The infection can be transmitted from person to person via airborne droplets. The incubation period is short, and an infected person may die within 12 to 24 hours.
An estimated 400 cases of plague are reported in Madagascar every year.
Outbreaks typically occur during the rainy season as “the rains drive the rodents out”, said Daniel Bausch, director of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team. Launched in 2016, this team consists of clinicians, scientists and academics deployed to tackle outbreaks of disease around the world within 48 hours.
The government has mobilised resources to spray schools and other public places to fight fleas and rodents.
People have also been lining up at pharmacies in the capital – some wearing face masks – to get medication or protection from infection.