The number of plague cases and deaths continue to rise in Madagascar as health officials released updated numbers Monday. Prime Minister Kolo Roger, who is also the Minister of Health said in a press conference Monday evening that the case count is up to 138, including 47 fatalities.


This is up from the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement Friday when the numbers were put at 119 and 40, respectively.

Plague, a disease many think of as something from the history books, is alive and well in many areas of the globe and is clearly not stranger to Madagascar. It’s not a disease from the Justinian period or the Middle Ages.

The most recent plague epidemics have been reported in India during the first half of the 20th century, and in Vietnam during wartime in the 1960s and 1970s. Plague is now commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, areas which now account for over 95% of reported cases, according to the CDC.

In fact, in a study published in  The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Sept 2013, 21,725 cases of human plague reported globally during the last decade (2000-2009), including 1,612 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 7.4%.

Leading all countries with number of human plague cases was the Congo, which reported 10,581 during the decade. The author of the  notes that all these occurred in the Oriental Province following years of civil strife and influxes of displaced persons.

Following the Congo was Madagascar recording 7,182 cases. The island country was the leading country in plague occurrence during the previous decade, 1990-1999.

According to the general secretary of the Madagascar Ministry of Health, between 300 and 600 suspected cases are reported each year, with about 30 cases of pulmonary plague and 10 to 70 deaths.

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