Madagascar Plague: Quick Facts and Everything You Need To Know

At least thirty-three people have died from the Madagascar plague and the World Health Organization had to step in to help the country combat the sweeping plague.

The Madagascar plague is a pneumonic plague that is caused by a bacteria which spreads through bites by infected fleas. WHO Madagascar Representative Charlotte Ndiaye said in a statement;

“Plague is curable if detected in time. Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save,”

The risk of contamination remains high leading to a ban placed on visiting the two worst affected areas (eastern Madagascar and the central part of the island, mainly in Antananarivo), public gatherings and prisons.

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The goal is to stop the spread of the Madagascar plague and get a cure to all those who have already been affected. The government has received some criticism on what is considered their slow response.

There is still uncertainty on when the disease first broke out but the first death occurred on 28 August when a passenger died in a public service vehicle in the town of Moramanga, on the east coast. Two other people that came in contact with that passenger also died later on.

All You Need To Know About The Madagascar Plague

  • It has also been referred to as Black Death. The name was culled from a 19th-century plague also known as Black Death that killed probably more than 100 million people in Europe.
  • One of the main ways through which the plague is transmitted is through the bite of infected fleas.
  • There is a practice in the country whereby dead people are dug up by their relatives to turn their bones. It is this practice that is said to be among the causes of the plague.
  • Symptoms of the plague include high fever and swollen and tender lymph nodes.
  • For now, the Madagascar plague still doesn’t have a Vaccine, but people have managed to use Antibiotics as a preventive measure.
  • The infection is in different forms; bubonic plague (which is the more common one and less dangerous), as well as the pneumonic plague which is very dangerous. According to the World Health Organization, failure to treat the common form could make it spread to the lungs and later change to the more dangerous one.
  • The plague first began in Ankazobe District before moving to Antananarivo and later to the port city of Toamasina.
  • The Madagascar plague tends to hit the country every year and there are normally about 400 cases recorded yearly.
  • The latest attack of the plague in 2017 has infected about 230 people according to the country’s health ministry.
  • People become infected by the plague after being bitten by infected fleas (bubonic plague) or through the cough of an infected person (pneumonic plague).
  • Like many other ailments, once the plague is detected early, it can be cured with very simple antibiotics. Before now, as it is with the Black Death, getting infected simply means death.
  • It is being combated with a million doses of antibiotics supplied by the WHO and a specialized hospital in Antananarivo is being swamped by long lines of people waiting for face masks or medicine.
  • Disinfection of schools and other public places is another way that it can be combatted.
  • Since 1980, the Indian Ocean Island has always suffered bubonic plague outbreaks almost every year. It has been noted that this could be as a result of rats trying to escape forest fires.
  • There is fear that if it breaks out again, it may be more dangerous that it has been in years.
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Government Intervention In The Madagascar Plague

  • Efforts have been made to set up rat traps and spray insecticides in several neighbourhoods to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • The government has established a toll-free number so that citizens can report any new cases.
  • The health ministry is also taking action against social media users that it accuses of spreading false news and creating panic. For instance, one  Facebook user was arrested and investigated on 3 October for publishing a report which did not correspond to the toll given by the ministry.
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