A plague outbreak in Madagascar has killed 71 of 263 people known to have been infected since September, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently confirmed.
Madagascar has been impacted by the plague almost annually since 1980, and case numbers have increased over the past three years. The latest outbreak was believed to have peaked in November and December, but the plague season continues until April and the disease's spread was exacerbated by heavy rains and flooding in January. WHO also has discovered that plague control in Madagascar is now complicated by the development of resistance to the first-line insecticide deltamethrin in fleas that transmit the plague from rats to human beings.
The plague is a bacterial disease spread mainly by flea-carrying rats. Humans who acquire the infection generally develop a bubonic form of the disease that is treatable by antibiotics.
The most heavily affected area in Madagascar is the district of Amparafavarola in the central highlands. This region has had cases of pneumonic plague, which is the least common but most virulent form of the disease and can kill people within 24 hours if not treated.
In addition, 13 cases of the plague were confirmed in the slum areas of Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo through the end of December.