Plague: Madagascar schools shut, as 42 die

Schools in several cities across Madagascar will stay  closed  this week due to an outbreak of bubonic plague, with the death toll rising to 42, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

The government had already prohibits crowds from gathering in order to curb the further spread of the dangerous disease that had sickened 343 people as at Sunday, according to Health Ministry figures.

On Friday, the ministry put the death toll at 36, with 250 sickened.

“In the heavily populated capital, Antananarivo, 142 people have been infected. Schools in the affected cities of Antananarivo, Toamasina and other regions have been closed for a week,” the Healthy Ministry said.

Outbreaks of bubonic plague are common in Madagascar, which lies off Africa’s south-eastern coast, but the most recent outbreak has included cases of the more serious pneumonic form of plague.

About 400 cases of plague are  reported in Madagascar every year, most of them bubonic, which is transmitted by flies.

The much rarer pneumonic strain of the disease that is spread person-to-person is fatal unless treated within 24 hours.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it had delivered 1.4 million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar in view of the plague.

“With this up to 5,000 infected people can be  treated and 100,000 can be given a prophylaxis. With early diagnosis, the chances of recovery are good,” said WHO.

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