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Published On: Tue, Dec 24th, 2013

Plague deaths in Madagascar up to 42 since September: UN

The number of plague cases and deaths are up to 84 and 42, respectively, in four of the country’s 112 districts since September according to the Madagascar Health Ministry.

Madagascar map   Image/Addicted04 via Wikimedia commons

Madagascar map Image/Addicted04 via Wikimedia commons

Dr Voahangy Ravaoalimalala, vice-director of the Malagasy Institut Pasteur, which performs pathogen tests for the health ministry in Antananarivo, told IRIN: “Bubonic plague can be treated easily with antibiotics, and it takes longer to develop, but this time some cases of pneumonic plague have also been identified. This form of plague is harder to treat, as it can kill people within three days.”

IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports the health ministry says that between 300 and 600 cases of bubonic plague occur annually in Madagascar, usually between October and March.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 21,725 persons were infected with plague worldwide in the first decade of the 21st century, accounting for 1,612 deaths and a case fatality rate of 7.4 percent.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found inanimals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.

People can also get infected through direct contactwith an infected animal, through inhalation and in the case of pneumonic plague, person to person.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.

There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.

Bubonic plague: This is the most common form. In this form, the bacteria enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes.

Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.

Septicemic plague: This form is also contracted from a flea or rodent bite. Sometimes it appears subsequent to untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague. It involves bloodstream dissemination to all areas of the body. Buboes do not occur. Symptoms are endotoxic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Untreated septicemic plague is nearly always fatal.

Pneumonic plague: Probably the most serious form of plague and it’s when the bacteria infect the lungs and cause pneumonia. It is contracted when the bacteria is inhaled (primary) or develops when bubonic or septicemic plague spreads to the lungs.

Pneumonic plague is contagious and can be transmitted person to person. It is highly communicable under appropriate climate conditions, overcrowding and cool temperatures. Untreated pneumonic plague is frequently fatal.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He regularly writes about infectious disease news for Examiner.com and administers the Outbreak News section of The Global Dispatch.

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