Every year, during the rainy season, Madagascar sees cases of the plague. Although it is not uncommon for other countries in Asia and Europe to experience this, Madagascar is the most severely affected.
Instead of sticking to a particular area, “the disease…has spread to the capital, Antananarivo, and other densely populated cities, killing 45 people [so far] and sparking panic” said Robyn Dixon, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times.
Since there was an initial delay in treating the very first cases (the symptoms are much like malaria), the results were disastrous. Despite efforts to prevent the plague from spreading more, Madagascar’s “poorly equipped health system is one of the many challenges,” Dixon said.
More than 600 cases have been reported.
The most widely known form of the plague – the Black Death – is the bubonic plague, which is easily treated. However, if gone unnoticed, it can develop into pneumonic plague, which is more deadly and can kill within 24 hours.
The bubonic plague spreads through infected fleas which lie on rats. The pneumonic plague spreads through airborne contact with coughing and sneezing.
Despite being the most dangerous outbreak in years, there hasn’t been widespread coverage in developed countries; the Madagascar government is focusing on helping citizens at the local level.
In response to outbreak severity, there has been international assistance including contributions from the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Doctors Without Borders, and the World Health Organization, who donated $1.5 million in emergency funds and 1.2 million doses of antibiotics, according to CNN.
Daniel Bausch, director of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, clarifies that “unlike Ebola, plague is easily treated with antibiotics…with very good outcomes if detected early.”
In the coming weeks, whether the disease is effectively treated could determine future outcomes of more plague outbreaks.