A plague outbreak in Madagascar has infected 1,192 people since August, with 124 deaths, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Madagascar’s National Bureau of Risk Management and Disaster reported on Monday.
The majority of cases, 67 per cent, were the pneumonic form of the disease, which can spread from person to person.
Plague is caused by infection with the bacterium Yersinia pestis and 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 or damaging and is an advanced form characterised by a severe lung infection that can be transmitted from person to person via airborne droplets such as through coughing or sneezing, for example. The incubation period is short, and an infected person may die within 12 to 24 hours.
Both forms can be treated with antibiotics, making early detection a priority.
Of Madagascar’s 114 districts, 40 have reported cases of pneumonic plague and less than 30 per cent of people who have had contact with cases can be traced, according to the UN office. Those who’ve been in contact might need treatment themselves and may pose further risk of spreading the infection.
Cases have been reported in at least 10 cities, including the the larger, more populated, cities of Antananarivo and Toamasina.
But 780 individuals have been cured of their infection since August 1 and six of the affected districts have not reported new cases for 15 days, the UN report states.
Despite the increase in numbers, the trend has been relatively stable, a World Health Organisation representative told CNN. Read more