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Pneumonic Plague in Madagascar Slowing, But Not Over

  • Lisa Schlein

Face masks are placed on children in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Oct. 3, 2017. Authorities in Madagascar are struggling to contain an outbreak of plague that has killed at least 20 people, and the government has begun a campaign to disinfect school classroo

The World Health Organization says an outbreak of pneumonic plague in Madagascar appears to be slowing. But, it warns vigilance must be maintained as the spread of the disease is far from over.

The World Health Organization says plague came early to Madagascar this year and has spread quickly. Quite unusually, pneumonic plague moved from the remote rural areas to congested urban areas, causing panic since, unlike bubonic plague, this disease is transmitted from human to human.

The normal plague season of September to April causes about 400 cases of the disease. But, this year, the WHO says more than 1,800 suspected cases, resulting in 127 deaths were reported in the three-month period from August through late October.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says that is an unusually large number of cases in such a short period of time. But, he says there has been a decline in the number of new cases since the second week of October.

“There is also a decrease in the number of patients that are hospitalized due to suspicion of a plague," said Jasarevic. "While this declining trend in new plague cases and reduction in hospitalizations due to plague cases is encouraging, WHO expects more cases of plague to be reported from Madagascar until the typical plague season ends in April 2018.”

Jasarevic says people must remain vigilant and ongoing operations of surveillance and treatment must be sustained over the coming six months, when the danger will be over.

He says finding and treating active cases of the plague, identifying people who have come in contact with an infected person, following up and providing antibiotic treatment is important. In addition, he says rodent and flea control, as well as safe and dignified burials is crucial throughout the plague season.

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