Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Plague kills 40

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

A plague outbreak has killed 40 people on the island nation of Madagascar, with 119 people diagnosed with the bacterial disease since August.

Two people have been diagnosed and one has died in the capital, Antananarivo. The World Health Organization (WHO) fears the plague outbreak may spread rapidly through Madagascar's largest and densely populated city, worsened by the country's poor healthcare system.

WHO said a national task force has been set up to manage the outbreak, with the cost of the project reaching US$200,000. The international health organisation said it is working with the Red Cross and Madagascan health authorities to control the disease.

The plague is a disease carried by rodents and spread by fleas. Humans are most often infected when they are bitten by fleas, causing swelling of the lymph nodes and sometimes pneumonia.

Combating the disease in Madagascar has been made more difficult by a high level of resistance to an insecticide used to control fleas, according to WHO.

Early treatment and antibiotics have been effective in curing the disease, according to WHO.

The bubonic form of the disease, which causes swollen lymph nodes, can be treated with antibiotics. The deadlier pneumonic form, which attacks the lungs, may kill patients within 24 hours, warn health officials.

Pneumonic plague is easily spread through coughing,

but WHO says only two per cent of cases reported in Madagascar have been from this highly infectious form of the disease.