Plague ripples into Madagascar

By Sora Park

Now tolling at 57 deaths and 684 cases, the plague that had gradually crept over Madagascar for the past three years has been unleashed, according to CNN.

The plague, which consists of two main types–bubonic and pneumonic–erupted after a 31 year old man was found dead on August 31, 2014. There were 31 individuals who came into contact with this man who were later found to be in need of treatment, and four other individuals were found dead.

Both plagues can be treated with antibiotics and can be cured if caught early. However, because the symptoms of these plagues resemble malaria, which is endemic to Madagascar, infected citizens often remain oblivious to their disease, causing death tolls to rise.

The bubonic plague is typically spread by infected fleas carried by rats. The symptoms of this plague includes swollen lymph nodes, coughing, chills, and fevers.

The pneumonic plague develops from the bubonic plague but grows to become much more toxic and more easily transmittable. Coughing is enough to transfer the disease. The pneumonic plague is comparable to a severe lung infection, which leads to chest pain, coughs, and headache. These symptoms often develop seven days after the body is exposed to the infection, with death commonly occurring 12 to 24 hours later.

The plagues have erupted three months before their usual November to March season, causing public education systems to be shut down to prevent their spread. Public events have also been cancelled and protection masks are in high demand.

Because the health care system of Madagascar is poorly equipped and lacks funding, doctors work exposed to the plague, leaving civilians to resort to cheaper medicines instead of visiting the clinic or hospital.

To combat the spread of the plague, international support has been granted by The World Health Organization (WHO), which has donated more than $1.5 million in funding and 1.2 million doses of antibiotics. Furthermore, organizations like the Red Cross have set aside 1,000 volunteers and $1 million to fund a treatment center.

“The situation, as you know, is quite concerning. We’ve seen a doubling of cases over the last week…I think all the lessons learned from Ebola mean that our response needs to be extremely fast in these types of situations, in order to bring an outbreak under control as quickly as possible” Dr. Julie Hall, the Red Cross federation’s Director of Health and Care, said according to the Washington Post.

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