The good news about the 2017 Madagascar plague outbreak is that experts at the UN and in the country say the outbreak is decreasing. However, “plague season” on the island nation will continue until April.

Image/onestopmap via pixabay
Image/onestopmap via pixabay

Although the number of areas reporting cases is in the decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the overall risk of further spread at the national level was high, at the regional level was moderate, and at the global level was low, based on their assessments.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal in a short time, and helped to strengthen overall regional health security,” said Dr Ibrahima-Soce Fall, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for the WHO African Region.

“But to ensure longer-term sustainability, we have to provide continuing support for Madagascar’s health system to better anticipate, detect, and respond to future plague outbreaks. Supporting these efforts improves health security for everyone.”

Neighboring Comoros, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion and Mayotte, Seychelles, South Africa, and the United Republic of Tanzania were prioritized for increased plague preparedness and surveillance. WHO has also helped Ethiopia and Kenya to raise preparedness levels because of their direct airline connections with Madagascar.

From 1 August to 30 October 2017, a total of 1,801 suspected cases of plague, including 127 deaths (case fatality rate 7%), were reported.

Although bubonic plague occurs nearly every year in Madagascar, the current outbreak is unusual in that plague pneumonia is occurring in widespread areas of Madagascar, including in heavily populated cities of Antananarivo (the capital city and its suburbs) and Toamasina.

The outbreak has also led to calls from international authorities for shipping lines with vessels that visit the country to pay especial care to the health of their crews and to be on high alert for any signs of infection in any of their sailors as there is great concern that the outbreak may spread off the island and onto the African continent.