The world has been watching as plague has been spreading throughout Madagascar. While the southeastern African country is no stranger to plague, this one seemed to have been significantly worse and health organizations around the globe scrambled to combat the disease and prevent it from spreading to neighboring countries.

Though this is a very serious epidemic and should be treated as such, plague has begun its steady decline in recent weeks. The numbers of confirmed cases are expected to lessen until around April, 2018. That can only happen under the helpful hands of international aid organizations willing to combat this crisis continuously until the last case is resolved. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that, “The number of new cases and hospitalizations of patients due to plague is declining in Madagascar. The last confirmed bubonic case was reported on 24 October and the last confirmed pneumonic case was reported on 28 October.”

Still, WHO has continued to bolster the surrounding countries with infrastructure in case the plague spreads beyond Madagascar’s borders. They have continued to investigate any new reported cases in Madagascar and isolate pneumonic cases, as those are communicable through things like coughing. They are providing free prophylactic antibiotics and are ensuring that the medication gets in the right hands. There are times when aid organizations prefer to project an image of helping without actually doing much, but in cases like this it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the disease from spreading and creating a global epidemic.

What is plague? Don’t confuse the colloquial usage of the word with its scientific definition. Plague is actually a specific disease, and can manifest itself in three forms: bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic. These forms of plague all stem from the same Yersinia pestis, a bacteria that infects human beings via the oriental rat flea. Rats roll around, the fleas hop off, bit a person and all of a sudden you have a plague epidemic. It happens so frequently in Madagascar that they have what WHO calls a “plague season.”

It’s this same bubonic plague that hit Europe and wiped out a third of the population in the 1300s and killed 10 million people in the 1800s. Why isn’t the world panicking that bubonic plague is going to hit international waters and wipe out similar percentages of the population? Modern medicine has come a long way since then, and with early treatment it can be taken care of in most cases. However, places like Madagascar don’t always have the luxury of early treatment, hence “plague season.” Getting those areas better access to modern medicine will effectively combat the spread of plague or like diseases in the future.


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press