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Pneumonic Plague in Madagascar Continues to Decline

Red Cross volunteers talk to villagers about the plague outbreak, 30 miles west of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Oct. 16, 2017.

Pneumonic plague continues to decline in Madagascar, according to the World Health Organization, whose latest figures put the number of suspected cases at 1,947, including 143 deaths.

The latest reported cases of pneumonic plague, based on the number of people hospitalized and on district reporting in Madagascar, is good news, said Fadela Chaib, WHO spokeswoman.

“As of yesterday, 6 November, there were only 27 people hospitalized with plague compared with 106 on 29 October, for example,” she said. “This decline in new cases is encouraging and shows that the quick steps taken to support the government of Madagascar to contain the outbreak have been effective.”

Vigilance and money

However, Chaib warns that everyone must remain vigilant. She says flare-ups of this deadly disease cannot be ruled out until the plague season ends in April.

WHO, she said, needs $4 million to sustain its effort.

Much vital work remains, she said. For example, samples from sick people and those in contact with them must be laboratory tested, she said. She told VOA that since the start of the outbreak in August, WHO has trained teams of people who have traced 6,000 contacts.

“This is a huge operation,” she sad. “This needs to be done because you will need to maintain a high level of surveillance. You will need to train people. You will need also to provide logistical help to the hospitals and health centers.”

Fighting distrust, too

In Madagascar, Tomislav Jagatic of Doctors Without Borders told Reuters that medical staff fight distrust as well as the disease.

“We are sending teams of outreach, health promoters to discuss with all the people in the community how the plague is transmitted and also more important is we want to gain the trust of the community,” Jagatic said.

So far, there have been no reported cases of plague outside Madagascar.

WHO is working with all countries to strengthen their surveillance systems at the borders, Chaib said. WHO also is urging them to be prepared to quickly contain the disease in case plague is reported.