Updated: 11/14/2017 12:12:16 AM
The plague outbreak in Madagascar is continuing to slow, but nine countries neighboring the island nation are on alert in case the infection reaches their borders, told CNN.
Since the outbreak began in August, 165 people have died and more than 2,000 have become infected with plague as of Wednesday.
Of those infections, 77% were clinically diagnosed as pneumonic -- or pulmonary -- plague, a form of the infection that can spread from person to person.
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017
The plague is spreading in Madagascar, in the worst outbreak for 50 years.
Outbreaks are common in the island nation, typically making up around half of the world’s cases every year. This year, however, “plague season” came early, causing alarm as it rapidly spread beyond normal areas, accelerated by a rarer form of the disease.
One thousand and eight hundred people are thought to have been infected in the last three months in Madagascar, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Oct 31. In a typical year, approximately 1,000 are infected worldwide.
One hundred and twenty-seven deaths have been reported since August, according to the WHO.
The plague is usually associated with the Black Death epidemic that killed 50 million people in Europe in the 14th century, spread by rats, and their fleas.
That form of plague - known as bubonic plague - however, is less deadly than the airborne form, pneumonic plague, which is currently driving the epidemic in Madagascar.
Professor Jimmy Whitworth, an international public health scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told the Mail Online that the outbreak could continue to spread because it had reached heavily populated cities.
He told MailOnline, “Madagascar is the most plague endemic country in the world and has outbreaks every year at about this time, this outbreak though is the worst for 50 years or more.”
Bubonic plague typically kills 30 percent -60 percent of victims when left untreated. An untreated infection of pneumonic plague is always fatal, however.
Pneumonic plague is spread through coughing, spitting, or sneezing and can kill within 24 hours if not treated.
No vaccine is available to treat the plague, but it can be treated with antibiotics, according to the Center For Disease Control.
And according to the WHO, the plague can be easily prevented and treated with antibiotics if detected early enough, and infection can be prevented through the use of standard precautions.
“An outbreak of plague no longer unfolds in the manner portrayed by our history books,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO’s Infectious Hazard Management Department, in a statement. “Plague is an old disease, but the challenges it poses today are contemporary and fundamentally different from what we had even 40 years ago.”
Plague Outbreak Facts
Affected Area: 2000 km.
Alert Level: Madagascar, Red