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article imagePlague outbreak in Madagascar kills 40, WHO reports

By Karen Graham     Nov 21, 2014 in Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday a plague outbreak in Madagascar has infected 119 people so far, killing 40. The bacterial disease, transmitted by fleas, started in a village in Soamahatamana in August, and has now spread.
Since the plague began in August, it has spread to 16 districts, the organization is saying. It has now reached the capital, Antananarivo. Two confirmed cases with one death have been reported. The bacterial disease is mainly spread between rodents and fleas, with the fleas transmitting the disease to humans.
"There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city's high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system," WHO said in a statement released today. "The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country."
Yersinia pestis, the plague bacteria is carried by fleas on wild rats, and can cause different types of plague. Bubonic plague, an infection of the lymph nodes is usually the most common type seen. Should the bacteria reach the lungs, then the patient will develop pneumonic plague, “one of the most deadly infectious diseases,” according to WHO.
Plague patient displaying a swollen  ruptured inguinal lymph node  or buboe. After an incubation per...
Plague patient displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe. After an incubation period of 2-6 days, symptoms of the plague appear including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever, and pain and swelling in the affected lymph nodes, also known as buboes.
According to WHO, two percent of the bubonic plague cases have developed into pneumonic plague. It then becomes easily transmissible from person to person through infected droplets spread by coughing. If the disease is caught right away, bubonic plague can be treated with antibiotics. With pneumonic plague, it is so deadly that patients can die within 24 hours of infection.
The plague has been around for thousands of years, and epidemics have caused high mortality rates all through human history. The earliest recorded plague epidemic occurred in the mid-sixth century, wiping out a third of the Byzantine Empire. Again, in the 1340s, the plague spread across Europe from Southern Italy, wiping out more than a third of the population. Since the time of the "Black Death," of the 1340s, the plague would occur a number of times in Europe, the last time in England in 1666.
More about Madagascar, Plague, risk of rapid spread, bacterial disease, Bubonic plague
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