While there appears to be hope for Madagascar with the slowing of a pneumonic plague outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns it is too early to call off containment measures.
The number of new infections has been in steady decline for several weeks now, according to the Madagascar Ministry of Health. This shows the efficacy of recent containment efforts, but new cases are still expected until April 2018–the predicted end of the plague season. Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 22, 2,348 cases have been reported, with 202 deaths among them. Thousands have been treated.
“The worst of the outbreak is over, but we must stand ready to detect and respond to new infections until the end of the plague season in April 2018,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The plague is native to Madagascar, but this has been the worst year yet for the nation both in terms of scope and spread speed. It struck in cities, as opposed to its normally rural roots. WHO became involved early on with emergency funding of $1.5 million, more than 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and the training of more than 4,400 people to help prevent the plague from spreading further.
“It is a tragedy that a disease from the Middle Ages, that can be easily treated, could threaten an entire country and kill more than 200 people,” Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said. “There is far too little funding for plague research, prevention, and preparedness, and this year thousands of people in Madagascar have suffered as a result.”
More than 135 WHO and Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network staff remain deployed to Madagascar to support containment efforts. Efforts are focused on case finding, the identification and treatment of contacts, rodent and flea control, and the guarantee of safe burials.