ANTANANARIVO: An outbreak of plague even more vicious than the bubonic strain dubbed the black death has killed 39 people in Madagascar, the government said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
A government doctor said 90 percent of the cases were pneumonic plague, a strain much more vicious than the common bubonic plague that can kill within three days, leaving little time for antibiotics to work.
Authorities urged anyone suffering fever and headaches to consult a health practitioner, saying drugs to treat the plague were available free of charge.
“There is an epidemic in Madagascar which is currently affecting five districts [out of 112]. Eighty-six people have been inflicted by the plague, of which 39 have died,” said the health ministry in a statement.
The first person died before November, but government only officially declared the existence of a plague on November 23.
The outbreak has been blamed on an infestation of rats in residential areas due to uncontrolled deforestation.
The plague is an ancient evil that has claimed hundreds of millions of lives over the millennia, and still causes outbreaks today, despite the effectiveness of antibiotics
Pneumonic plague is rarer but far more vicious than the bubonic kind, as it gives little time for antibiotics to act.
The plague bacterium gets transmitted into the lungs, carried in the droplets that are breathed in.
The World Health Organization says pneumonic plague “is one of the most deadly infectious diseases” with a mortality rate that “is always very high.”
According to the government doctor, who cannot be named because he does not have clearance to speak to the media, the first case was registered in a village in the remote region of Mandritsara.
Teams have been put in place with the help of the World Health Organization and the international public health research foundation Institute Pasteur to handle the epidemic.