There is a plague in Madagascar and here’s what you should know about it

Children wear face masks at a school in Antananarivo, Madagascar (AP)

Madagascar is experiencing an outbreak of plague that has spread to the capital and port towns, infecting more than 100 people in just a few weeks.

So far, this is what we know about the plague:

  • It is not a new plague. Madagascar experiences cases of plague nearly every year on the rainy season (September – April), however;
  • It is considered more deadly because it is just the start of its plague season but it has already killed 52 people and for the first time, the plague has spread to the capital, Antananarivo, and other densely populated cities.
  • The plague spreading across Madagascar is an offshoot of the Bubonic plague.

Bubonic plague is easily treated with antibiotics, but if untreated it can reach the lungs, developing into pneumonic plague, which can kill a patient within 24 hours.

Pneumonic plague is highly contagious and is transmitted from person to person through infected droplets coughed into the air – basically by coughing.

The Los Angeles Times narrates a possible spread of the plague from a 31-year old man in late August.

What are the chances of the plague spreading globally? Very low, according to Al Jazeera, ‘the plague is treatable and that the current outbreak can likely be managed.’

The World Health Organization has released US$300,000 in emergency funds, as well as critical medical supplies, to quickly scale up operational efforts, and is appealing for US$1.5 million to support the response.

What is the government doing? In Antananarivo, the government has temporarily closed universities and schools for disinfection and has banned public gatherings to try to prevent the disease from spreading further.

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