Twenty-two pneumonic plague cases, including five deaths have been reported in Madagascar since August, according to an AFP report via African media.


“There have been no deaths since Monday,” according to senior health ministry official Willy Randriamarotia. He added that there was widespread panic in the eastern region of Tamatave which has not seen the plague for 100 years.

Plague is a disease many think of as something from the history books; however, it is alive and well in many areas of the globe and is clearly no stranger to Madagascar. During the last decade, the island country reported more than 7,000 human plague cases, second most on the planet.

There have been outbreaks every year in Madagascar since 1980, especially fueled by rats fleeing forest fires.

Pneumonic plague is probably the most serious form of plague , which occurs 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.

LISTEN: Plague: An interview with Dr. Paul Ettestad

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals 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.

People can also get infected through direct contact with 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.


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