What experts consider the worst outbreak of pneumonic plague that the island nation of Madagascar has experienced in the last 50 years might be finally ending, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and another report from the World Health Organization.
Since middle August, people have been dying due to this lethal virus that kills anybody who doesn’t seek immediate help. Just in early October, at least 45 people died in 27 out of the 114 country’s districts. A few weeks later, WHO reported that the number of deaths had risen to 57, and infected cases to 680.
So far we know, the plague has killed around 133 people and infected around 1,836 in the past recent three months — including both suspected and confirmed cases. Fortunately, both health organizations agree on saying that the outbreak might be slowing down.
On the one hand, the UN Office said that the occurrence of new cases is finally decreasing. On the other, WHO informed that the number of hospitalizations was also dropping.
WHO also said that the increasing cases they recently informed were because of “enhanced surveillance and ongoing investigations.” Likewise, the organization said that some of these cases were not infected, but being inspected.
According to the UN office, 61 percent of the total cases — in the 12 districts where the epidemic is still active — is due to the pneumonic plague and not because of the bubonic plague. This is the first year that Madagascar experiences these numbers.
A WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said that pneumonic is spreading faster than the bubonic plague and that there’s “a higher portion of pneumonic plague cases” this year compared to the “past outbreaks.”
This virus infects people as easily as any flu and mostly attacks the rural areas. However, the outbreak affected this year the two largest cities in the southeast African island of Madagascar: Antananarivo and Toamasina.
At the beginning of the outbreak, authorities prohibited gatherings at late night hours and gave access to medicine and protection.
Nations in Africa are preparing
A representative of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme said that the outbreak began in middle August when a person realized it was carrying the virus and proceeded to travel to another to find immediate help. Unfortunately, it infected others in its way, creating several chains of transmission.
Unfortunately, some WHO officials also adverted that the epidemic might spread to other countries in Africa. Nine of these are already on alert for potential new cases in the following weeks. However, there are others who do not think the same.
“The risk of international spread is low, because generally, people with plague are too sick to travel,” said Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, a WHO representative in Madagascar.
South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros and Mauritius’ authorities increased their protections to avoid infected people reaching their territories.
To control the deadly outbreak, the World Bank released an extra $5 million (£3.8m). This will allow Madagascar to obtain more help for the people living in the most affected regions of the country.