JOHANNESBURG – The plague outbreak that has killed 202 people in Madagascar appears to be waning, the World Health Organization said Monday, while highlighting the need to remain vigilant and ready to respond.
“The worst of the outbreak is over, but we must stand ready to detect and respond to new infections until the end of the plague season in April 2018,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The WHO, citing figures from Madagascar’s health ministry, said that the number of new cases has declined steadily over the last few weeks.
A total of 2,348 cases were confirmed between Aug. 1 and Nov. 22, resulting in 202 deaths. All of the infected persons and 7,300 people thought to have been exposed to the virus were treated without charge.
“It is a tragedy that a disease from the Middle Ages, that can be easily treated, could threaten an entire country and kill more than 200 people. There is far too little funding for plague research, prevention and preparedness, and this year thousands of people in Madagascar have suffered as a result,” said Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.
The WHO provided Madagascar with $1.5 million in emergency funds, 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and trained more than 4,400 health professionals as contact-tracers to help prevent plague from spreading, according to the statement.