Bubonic Plague outbreak in Madagascar

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Since the 4th November there has been an outbreak of plague in Madagascar, with 119 reported cases including 40 deaths. The World Health Organisation is concerned because it has affected the capital city, Antananarivo which has a high population density and this could cause the disease to spread quickly.

Bubonic plague is spread between rodents and humans via infected fleas. Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease and therefore, can be treated relatively easily with anti-biotics if it is quickly diagnosed. If it is not treated quickly it can spread to the lungs where it can turn into pneumonic plague. This type of plague has a high fatality rate and can cause death within 24 hours.

Authorities in Madagascar are attempting to control the outbreak by using insecticide sprays to kill infected fleas and ensuring adequate pest control methods are in place to control the spread of rodents. They are also bringing in large stocks of anti-biotics and other drugs used to treat plague sufferers.

At present the World Health Organisation is not restricting travel to and from Madagascar. Travellers to Madagascar should use methods to minimise contact with both fleas and rodents. They should ensure they use an insect repellent with a concentration of 50% DEET and soak clothing and bed sheets in Permethrin prior to use to reduce contact with live fleas. Visitors should stay in accommodation that is clean and free of rodents.

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