Since the beginning of August, there have been 127 deaths and other 1,800 cases of plague. Every year, the island faces about 400 cases of bubonic plague in several rural areas, but this year it developed into a deadly version: the pneumonic plague. This deadly version reached more areas and even the capital.
In the 14th Century, the plague was known as the Black Death, killing more than 50 million people in Europe.
Bubonic and Pneumonic Plague: Infection and Treatment
Humans get infected with bubonic plague after they are bitten by infected fleas that live on small mammals, for example, rats. If not treated, two-thirds of those infected would die. One in 10 cases gets to develop a more dangerous type of plague – pneumonic plague. If the infected are not quickly treated, they will certainly die.
Pneumonic plague infects people through droplets in the air, so when the infected person coughs close to a healthy one, the latter could get infected too.
Treating and curing the plague is done with a short medication of antibiotics that should start in the early stage.
The outbreak in Madagascar has slowed down in the last couple of weeks, but according to World Health Organization, there could be some more spikes in the near future.
How Did Madagascar Get Hit By Such a Massive Outbreak?
A man that was infected with bubonic plague traveled to the capital and then to a coastal city, spreading the disease. Reaching the capital, the bubonic plague turned into a pneumonic plague, as the man didn’t follow the treatment. He was in an environment with a lot of people around him, causing a massive spread.
This happened at the end of August, when the usual plague season didn’t occur, so people weren’t aware of the threat. Because of it not being recognized in time, the plague had reached the stage where it caused several deaths and infected a lot of people. The man that brought the disease infected 31 people and four of them died.
In order to slow down and treat everyone, Madagascar has set up 9 centers in which over 2,000 community workers are looking for new cases of plague. There are 1.2 million doses of antibiotics that have been given by the World Health Organization. People have been informed through large campaigns on how to protect themselves against getting infected.
The plague season will not end until April, so the people have to be vigilant, as they are at a risk of getting infected. Until now, Madagascar hasn’t faced plague at this large scale, but the government is getting help from the UK through a Rapid Support Team.
The Plague Infection is of High Risk
The World Health Organization has described this infection as having a high risk on the island. Although there are big concerns about the spreading of plague across borders, the WHO helps surveil the countries that have air and sea contact to Madagascar. Mozambique, the Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania are at a ‘moderate’ risk of having cases of plague.
As for a global spread of the plague, the WHO stated that it has a low risk. They also advised against having restrictions such as closed borders or trade with Madagascar, as it will only increase the risk of getting the infection to spread. Travelers will be informed about the plague and how to prevent getting infected.
In Tamatave, at the MSF treatment center, Dr. Jagatic stated that they are better prepared for the plague season that is going to continue until April. He added that predicting an outbreak is not easy, and even though they have decreased the cases, the plague is not over.