Battling plague in Madagascar “complicated”, says WHO

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Ny Hantra Andriatsifasoa survived the bubonic plague after being infected in Madagascar in 2011. Photo: IRIN/Tiana Randriaharimalala

The task of stopping Madagascar's plague outbreak has been complicated by high resistance to traditional flea treatments, according to the UN health agency.

The disease has already killed 40 people in the island nation and has spread to 16 districts.

The first victim died on the 3rd of September in a rural area.

Now there's concern about the plague spreading in the capital Antananarivo, thanks to its high population density.

One person has already died there.

World Health Organization's Christian Lindmeier said that the UN agency receives 1,000 to 2,000 reports of plague every year but this outbreak is particularly worrying:

"There is now a risk of rapid spread of the disease due to the city's high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system. The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to the deltamethrin, which is an insecticide used to control fleas that has been observed in the country… Plague epidemics have occurred in Africa, Asia and South America but since the 1990s most human cases have occurred in Africa. What concerns us this year most is that the cases are more elevated than we have seen in recent years in Madagascar. "

WHO has indicates a total of 119 cases of plague which has a 30 to 60 per cent mortality rate if left untreated.

The bacterial disease primarily affects wild rodents and is spread by fleas.

Symptoms are flu-like and the incubation period is three to seven days. Treatment is with antibiotics.

National strategies are in place to combat the spread of the disease, while new insecticides have been provided to target the fleas.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1"46

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