The Black Death Still Alive – Outbreak of Plague in Madagascar

Yersina Pestis

The World Health Organization was informed on November 2014 by the Madagascan Ministry of Health that an outbreak of plague had began in the country. The first case was reported on 31st August and the patient died 4 days later.

A confirmed number of 119 cases have been reported, with 40 of the patients dying. 98% of the cases were the bubonic form of the disease.

The capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, has already been affected. Due to the high population and dense conditions of the city mean there are difficulties containing the disease. Christophe Rogier of Madagascar’s Institut Pasteur has announced that the last case of plague in the capital before this outbreak was 10 years ago.

Madagascar have also reported that fleas have shown a high level of resistance against the popular insecticide deltamethrin that is used to control the vector numbers to prevent further spread.

Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersina pestia, which is known to have natural reservoirs within rats, and is transmitted to hosts via flea bites where is causes distinctive black swelling of the lymph nodes. If y.pestis is transmitted to the lungs, pneumonic plague develops – a highly transmissible airborne form of the disease which can be spread via coughing. The plague has a reputation for having a high mortality rate. However, if discovered in early stages, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics. much more significant health risk and patients can die within 24 of infection.

The Ministry of Health in Madagascar have warned that the death toll is likely to increase over the following months. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that Madagascar has an average of 500 cases of plague each year, for the last 4 years. Quick identification and initiation of treatment is vital in savings the lives of patients infected with plague, and preventative measures have started to restrict the spread.

There are currently no recommended restrictions on travel or trade from the World Health Organization.

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