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Disease Control
WHO Warns of Rapid Spread of Plague in Madagascar

Move over Ebola, hello bubonic plague. Insecticide resistant fleas are spreading the plague in Madagascar according to the BBC. Forty people have already died from the disease, and 80 more are infected:

The first known case in the outbreak was a man in Soamahatamana village in the district of Tsiroanomandidy, about 200km west of Antananarivo, at the end of August.

There have been two confirmed cases in the capital, including one death.

“There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” the WHO said.

Especially worrying is the fact that in 2 percent of current infections the plague has shifted from bubonic to pneumonic. That means it can spread when people cough. Ebola overwhelmed the public health capabilities of the areas it struck, forcing the U.S. and other nations to lend a hand, and the plague may be on its way to requiring a similar response.

We often underestimate the vulnerability of places like Africa to diseases of these sorts, and the consequent threat to the stability of the region that outbreaks pose. In the case of Ebola, we managed to address the threat competently, and it’s more likely than not that we will do the same here. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more fragility built into third world health systems than we realize—and even into the very fabric of global prosperity.

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  • rheddles

    I’ll bet judicious use of DDT would nip this in the bud. But the plague is better than DDT. Thanks Rachel.

  • Andrew Allison

    “In the case of Ebola, we managed to address the threat competently, . . .” is a bit of a stretch. The initial responses were far from competent and the epidemic is not yet contained (

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