Humanitarian Health Action


Revamp of the plague detection in Madagascar yields quick and sustainable wins

13 March 2018 -- WHO has implemented drastic changes in plague detection in Madagascar that led to rapid decline in severity and scope of the outbreak, until it was declared over in late November 2017. The time between sample collection and laboratory analysis was reduced from days to just a few hours, significantly improving survival and reduction of complications in those infected.

WHO Director-General: invest in health to end plague in Madagascar

8 JANUARY 2018 | ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR - The Director-General of WHO has outlined his vision for a Madagascar free of plague epidemics during a three-day visit to the island nation that started on 7 January 2018.

Encounters with plague: tracing and preventing illness

November 2017 -- In Madagascar, where a severe plague epidemic has unfolded since August 2017, the number of new infections is finally in decline. WHO is supporting health authorities to respond to the outbreak, from setting up specialized plague treatment units in health centres, to distributing medicines across the country. A particularly effective action has involved training teams to find people who have been in contact with a plague patient – a system known as "contact tracing" – to help ensure these contacts are protected from falling sick themselves.

Madagascar’s plague epidemic is slowing, but we must sustain the response

WHO Madagascar/Hery Razafindralambo

27 November 2017 Antanarivo, Madagascar -- Madagascar’s unprecedented outbreak of pneumonic plague is slowing down but the response must be sustained, WHO cautioned on Monday (November 27). “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,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Disease outbreak news - plague in Madagascar

From 1 August through 10 November 2017, 1618 (76%) cases and 72 deaths have been clinically classified as pneumonic plague, including 365 (23%) confirmed, 573 (35%) probable and 680 (42%) suspected cases. In addition to the pneumonic cases, 324 (15%) cases of bubonic plague, one case of septicaemic plague, and 176 unspecified cases (8%), have been reported to WHO (Figure 1). Eighty-two healthcare workers have had illness compatible with plague, none of whom have died.

Madagascar plague: mitigating the risk of regional spread

November 2017 -- This year plague came early to Madagascar and spread quickly. When it began to move out from the areas where it traditionally occurs, people became increasingly alarmed – both within the island nation and in neighbouring territories and countries. From August to late October 2017, more than 1800 suspected, probable or confirmed plague cases were reported, resulting in 127 deaths. This outbreak is unusually severe, and there are still five more months to go before the end of the plague season.

Donor alert: Plague in Madagascar (updated 4 October 2017)

Team members of Institut Pasteur Madagascar (IPM) dissect a rat suspected of being infected with plague during previous outbreak in January 2017.
Team members of Institut Pasteur Madagascar (IPM) dissect a rat suspected of being infected with plague during previous outbreak in January 2017.
Institut Pasteur de Madagascar

Updated 4 October 2017 -- Pneumonic plague has been detected in several cities in Madagascar. It is a form of plague that is highly transmissible (person-to-person) and quickly causes death without treatment. WHO is concerned that the outbreak may spread because it is already present in several cities and this is just the start of the plague epidemic season, which usually runs from September to April. Urgent public health response is required and support is needed to strengthen capacities already available at country level to control the outbreak.

WHO scales up response to plague in Madagascar

1 October 2017 | Geneva - WHO is rapidly scaling up its response to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar that has spread to the capital and port towns, infecting more than 100 people in just a few weeks. The Government of Madagascar has confirmed that the death of a Seychellois national was due to pneumonic plague. The basketball coach died in hospital in Antananarivo on Wednesday (September 27) while visiting the island nation for a sports event.

Plague outbreak in remote Madagascar puzzles investigators

May 2017 -- Plague, though terrifying, is nothing new in Madagascar, where around 600 cases are reported annually. But there was something different about a suspected plague outbreak reported last December. The outbreak’s location was far away from recent outbreaks and implied plague had spread to new parts of the island nation, but health officials couldn’t explain it.

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Health impacts of the global food security crisis

In Madagascar, 15% of children aged under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition (wasting) and 53% are chronically malnourished (stunted), according to WHO data.