Madagascar plague outbreak kills more than 30 people as aid agencies step up response

Fears rise as infections reach crowded cities

Jon Sharman
Friday 06 October 2017 15:57
comments
Doctors and nurses from the Ministry of Health and officers of the Malagasy Red Cross staff a healthcare checkpoint in Antananarivo
Doctors and nurses from the Ministry of Health and officers of the Malagasy Red Cross staff a healthcare checkpoint in Antananarivo

Aid organisations have stepped up their response to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar that has killed nearly three dozen people.

The Red Cross has mobilised 700 volunteers on the island while the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it had shipped 1.2 million doses of antibiotics.

Authorities have banned large gatherings to avoid more people becoming infected.

The WHO said on Friday that so far, 231 people have become infected and 33 people have died. Most infections were cases of pneumonic plague, the more deadly version of the disease that is passed from person to person.

Its medicines should be enough to treat 5,000 patients and protect 100,000 more from potential infection, the WHO said.

Red Cross officials said the situation had worsened because the pneumonic plague, which along with its bubonic form is endemic to the island, had spread to areas in which it is not typically found, including crowded cities.

The outbreak began after the death of a 31-year-old man in Madagascar's central highlands in late August.

The dead include a basketball coach from the Seychelles who was participating in a tournament in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo.

Five people have died of plague in the capital, reported L'Express de Madagascar, a daily newspaper.

Many people have bought surgical masks and other medical supplies in large quantities, raising concerns about a shortage of medicine.

"Once everybody hears that this is a major thing, everyone runs out and buys everything at the pharmacy," said Joshua Poole, the Madagascar representative for Catholic Relief Services, an aid group based in Baltimore, Maryland in the US.

"Access to those essential items is a challenge."

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments