MANDRITSARA, Madagascar- Approximately 20 people have already died from the Bubonic Plague in the Northwest town of Mandritsara on the island nation of Madagascar. This epidemic, which killed over 25 million during the Middle Ages, is now to blame for more deaths this past week. Sadly, Madagascar was recently warned by the Red Cross about the possibility of an epidemic due to extremely low living standards. In 2012, Madagascar faced the highest number of Bubonic Plague cases, including 60 deaths. Globally there are about 1,000 to 3,000 cases of this disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.)
Police from the district of Mandritsara reported that other individuals carrying the disease are currently undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, the 20 deceased were not able to attain antibiotics in time since the plague can kill a patient within three days of infection. This disease is commonly spread through fleas on rats and each bite into human flesh allowing the bacteria, Yersinia Pestis, to spread. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause respiratory failure and shock. Initital symptoms of the disease include swollen lymph glands, headaches and chills.
More than 90 percent of Bubonic Plague cases are from Africa. Health officials have reported that five districts out of 112 are currently being affected. The difficulty with this plague is two of its variations, one which begins as the bubonic plague but then shifts to a pneumonic form once the bacteria spreads to the lungs. In these cases, mortality rates are 100 percent if victims do not acquire antibiotics within 24 hours of infection.
Madagascar’s health ministry officials point out the dangers of this pneumonic plague, highlighting the possibility of human to human transmission as bacteria can spread through air droplets. Madagascar has reported the highest infection rates because of its position as a low-income nation, with over 22 million people living in poverty. This issue alongside the nation’s hot environment increases flea breeding, especially with rural villages where sanitation is poor.
The WHO partnered with The Pasteur Institute of Madagascar, distributing antibiotics and spreading pesticides to control flea populations for several years now, but despite their work, remote villages were not able to attain the aid they required. After last weeks reports there has not been any other outbreaks and awareness campaigns continue to take place. Health officials still research and monitor all cases but have reported the low funding for this disease. The Bubonic Plague is not as common as other tropical diseases in several developing nations but it deserves as much attention. If left to nature, this disease could potentially devastate the island of Madagascar.
– Maybelline Martez