Plague outbreak in Madagascar kills 47

A researcher handles samples of the plague. | Reuters/Regis Duvignau

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 47people have died in an outbreak of the plague in Madagascar on Wednesday.

WHO warns of the disease's potential to rapidly spread. The disease is carried by rats and other rodents. The first case was reported on Aug. 31, and the individual later died from the disease on Sept. 3. The nation's Health Ministry announced the outbreak Nov. 4, and cases have been reported in 16 regions on the island.

According to the WHO, the country's high population density exacerbates the speed of infection, and the weakness of the health system may lead to a more severe situation.

The Red Cross, the Commune urbaine d' Antanarivo and the Pasteur Insttitute of Madagascar are partnering with the WHO to address the growing crisis.

The bubonic plague is successfully treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed in its early stages. Pneumonic plague is far deadlier, often killing within 24 hours of infection without antibiotics. It is a greater risk since it can be passed from person to person, unlike its bubonic form.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis as a potential microorganism of bioterrorism. Its symptoms include fever, weakness, pneumonia that is categorized with chest pains and shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.

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