According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 20 October, 2017, plague in Madagascar has claimed 102 lives. It has 1,297 documented cases, and a CFR (case fatality rate) of 7.9%.  To be clear: that means that of everyone who has contracted plague there, 7.9% of them have died.

Madagascar is split up into 22 “regions” and within them lie 114 “districts.” While the district of Antananarivo Renivohitra has been getting hit the hardest, 30% of the districts nation-wide have seen cases of plague.

Yersinia pestis – Wikimedia Commons

There are three types of plague: bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic. Well over half of these are classified as pneumonic plague, often known to be a progression from the infamous bubonic plague–which has claimed 20.8% of the recent cases in Madagascar.  Only one case was septicemic.  Again, these forms of plague aren’t necessarily completely independent of each other–they all stem from the same zoonotic bacteria, Yersinia pestis.  If they go untreated, pneumonic and septicemic plagues have a mortality rate of 99-100%.  Bubonic, the medieval “Black Death,” can go untreated and still have a staggering fatality rate of 40-60%.

Why do these outbreaks seem to happen so frequently in less developed countries? Why aren’t these biological threats constantly knocking at America’s door?