The Plague Rears Its Ugly Head in Madagascar

   10.19.17

The Plague Rears Its Ugly Head in Madagascar

Our old nemesis the plague (Yersinia pestis) has reared its head in Madagascar. As of October 19, 2017, at least 74 people have died and more than 800 are sick.

While the bubonic plague is known to be spread by fleas, an estimated 70% of these recent cases have been reported as pneumonic plague.  The pneumonic form of the plague is spread through cough droplets, which makes it easy to spread from person to person, which makes it more of a problem in urban areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing aid: WHO provides 1.2 million antibiotics to fight plague in Madagascar.

WHO has delivered nearly 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and released US$1.5 million dollars in emergency funds to fight plague in Madagascar.

“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,” said Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO Representative in Madagascar.

WHO has delivered 1,190,000 doses of antibiotics to the Ministry of Health and partners this week, and a further supply of 244,000 doses is expected in the days ahead.

On October 1st, 2017, WHO reported the plague has spread to the capital and the port towns.

WHO is rapidly scaling up its response to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar that has spread to the capital and port towns, infecting more than 100 people in just a few weeks.

During outbreaks in the middle ages, one of the primary ways the plague spread from town to town was by ship. Upon arriving at a port, crew members were often dead, sick, or dying. People who boarded the ships would be infected. From there, the infection would be brought into the port towns.


During an outbreak between 1348-1350, pneumonic and bubonic plagues killed an estimated 1/3 of Europe.

The Great Plague of London between 1665-1666 killed an estimated 100,000 people.

The Plague of Justinian (541-542) killed an estimated 25 million people.

Hopefully, this latest outbreak will be contained.

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