Published: Tue, October 10, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

WHO Sends 1.2 Million Antibiotic Doses To Combat Plague Outbreak In Madagascar

WHO Sends 1.2 Million Antibiotic Doses To Combat Plague Outbreak In Madagascar

Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment.

"Plague is curable if detected in time", The WHO representative in Madagascar, Dr Charlotte Ndiaye, said.

This year however the majority of cases are of pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs and is transmitted through coughing.

There has recently been criticism of the government's perceived slow reaction to the outbreak. There are normally about 400 cases of plague every year in the country. This form of the illness often appears as an influenza or a common cold that quickly advances to pneumonia, becoming more deadly than bubonic plague.

Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology who focuses on infectious disease at Columbia University told Newsweek that he agrees plague outbreaks such as these emphasize the importance of public health, and just what can happen when these measures are compromised. Unlike the usual endemic pattern, the plague season begun early this year, and the current outbreak has affected major urban centres, including Antananarivo (the capital city) and Toamasina (the port city).

It is not clear when the first outbreak of the disease took place but the first person who died from it was on August 28 when a public service vehicle passenger in Moramanga died. "Due to the increased risk of further spread and severe nature of the disease, the overall risk at the national level is considered very high", the World Health Organization said, adding that because of frequent travel by air and sea, the regional risk to neighboring Indian Ocean islands and African countries is moderate. Health officials are carefully monitoring the contacts of a basketball coach from the Seychelles, who was in Madagascar for a regional tournament, contracted the disease, and died.

Eastern and central Madagascar have been worst hit by the outbreak, sparking emergency funding from the WHO. Sports events have also been cancelled.

There have been concerted efforts to set up rat traps and spray insecticides in several neighbourhoods to prevent the spread of the disease. Since our last report on 4 October 2017, a total of 230 new suspected cases including 17 deaths (case fatality rate 7.4%) were reported. The WHO and Madagascar's health ministry are screening departing passengers at the country's global airport. Several Malagasy nationals live and work in the Seychelles in various sectors and frequently travel between the two islands.

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