Madagascar plague death toll rises to 195 and cases have jumped nearly 3% in just three days as ‘worst outbreak in 50 years’ of the medieval disease hits ‘crisis’ point

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
By Paul Martin

World Health Organization data shows 2,267 people have now been infected
Scientists are worried the ‘worst outbreak in 50 years’ has reached ‘crisis’ point
Ten countries have been placed on high alert as experts fear it will reach Africa
Other scientists fear this year’s outbreak will reach well beyond mainland Africa
Two thirds of all the cases have been caused by the airborne pneumonic plague
This can spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting and kill within 24 hours

21 November 2017

The Madagascar plague death toll has risen to 195 with a jump of almost 3 per cent jump in cases in just three days, official figures reveal.

Some 2,267 people have been struck down by the ‘medieval disease’; a rise of 64 casualties since the 2,203 cases reported last Friday, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.

International aid workers are desperately battling to contain the ‘crisis’, which has been described as the ‘worst outbreak in 50 years’ and has prompted 10 nearby African countries to be placed on high alert by the WHO.

Experts have expressed fears doctors are so focused on controlling the plague epidemic, they may neglect to participate in nationwide vaccination programmes against polio, which may trigger an outbreak of the paralysing condition.

Doctors and nurses may also be unable to treat plague patients if they themselves become infected, which would inevitably cause the outbreak to spiral further out of control, experts add.

Treatment may be further stilted if the plague’s bacteria become antibiotic resistant as healthcare staff frantically over prescribe drugs in an effort to calm the disease’s spread, experts say.

The deadly plague epidemic in Madagascar that is at ‘crisis’ point will trigger an outbreak of polio, according to Dr Derek Gatherer from Lancaster University, who fears aid workers will so focused on the ‘medieval disease’ they will forget nationwide efforts to prevent polio cases.

He told MailOnline: ‘It could derail the polio vaccine campaign, which would be a setback for eradication.

‘If [the] Madagascan health service is bursting at its seam coping with plague, then getting the polio vaccine programme running to plan will be something of a challenge.’

Professor Allen Cheng, an infectious disease expert at Monash University, warned of the dangers of the plague and said this year’s outbreak has been ‘unusual’ – because it is airborne.

He wrote in a piece for The Conversation: ‘It’s not possible to eradicate plague, as it is widespread in wildlife rodents outside the sphere of human influence.’

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