Bubonic and Pneumonic plagues spread in Madagascar

Credit AP  ALEXANDER JOE				Surgical masks are placed on children in Antananarivo Madagascar on Tuesday as the city contends with an outbreak of plague

Credit AP ALEXANDER JOE Surgical masks are placed on children in Antananarivo Madagascar on Tuesday as the city contends with an outbreak of plague

The Indian Ocean island nation suffers annual plague outbreaks, but this year the disease has affected urban areas, triggering concern from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It thrives in places with poor sanitary conditions and inadequate health services. He died in the hospital in Antananarivo on 27 September. Officials have been left to track those people that may have come into contact with the ill, to give them antibiotics as precautionary measures. Pneumonic plague-the most virulent strain of the bacteria- is fatal if not treated early with antibiotics.

"Our teams are on the ground in Madagascar providing technical guidance, conducting assessments, supporting disease surveillance and engaging with communities", Dr. Ndiaye explained.

"We are doing everything we can to support the Government's efforts, including by coordinating health actors", she added.

WHO and the Ministry of Health are training local health workers on how to identify and care for patients, and how to trace people who have had close contact with symptomatic patients so that they may be given protective treatment. Thus far, World Health Organization has released $300,000 in emergency funds and critical supplies to help, but they have also asked the United States for an additional $1.5 million to help drive response.

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WHO, which is sending more staff and supplies, including antibiotics, to Madagascar, said about 400 case of plague, mostly bubonic, are reported every year in the country.

The bacterium of the plague, which develops in rats, is transmitted by fleas.

The outbreak includes bubonic plague, which is spread by infected rats via flea bites, and pneumonic plague, which spreads from person to person. Last year, for example, 63 people died out of 275 cases. Almost half of the cases identified so far are of pneumonic plague.

The Malagasy Red Cross has responded to past plague outbreaks in the country and is working closely with the Government and worldwide partners to scale up response efforts.

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