WHO: An outbreak of plague in Madagascar

Plague is a bacterial disease caused by Yersinia pestis, which primarily affects wild rodents. It is spread from one rodent to another by fleas. Humans bitten by an infected flea usually develop a bubonic form of plague, which produces the characteristic plague bubo (a swelling of the lymph node).




If the bacteria reach the lungs, the patient develops pneumonia (pneumonic plague), which is then transmissible from person to person through infected droplets spread by coughing. If diagnosed early, bubonic plague can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Pneumonic plague, on the other hand, is one of the most deadly infectious diseases; patients can die 24 hours after infection. The mortality rate depends on how soon treatment is started, but is always very high.
Life-cycle (Source: Google search)


On 4 November 2014, WHO was notified by the Ministry of Health of Madagascar of an outbreak of plague. The first case, a male from Soamahatamana village in the district of Tsiroanomandidy, was identified on 31 August. The patient died on 3 September.
As of 16 November, a total of 119 cases of plague have been confirmed, including 40 deaths. Only 2% of reported cases are of the pneumonic form.
Cases have been reported in 16 districts of seven regions. Antananarivo, the capital and largest city in Madagascar, has also been affected with 2 recorded cases of plague, including 1 death. There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system. The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country.

Map: Source Google

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. In urban areas, such as Antananarivo, the surveillance of epidemic risk indicators is highly recommended for the implementation of preventive vector control activities. 

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