Plague — Madagascar’s current outbreak could have ripple effects

From WHO

What is the plague?

Meet the bacterium Yersina pestis. Although the world had seen previous outbreaks of the plague, it was not until 1894 during an outbreak in Hong Kong, that the bacteria was discovered by Alexandre Yersin.

Alexandre Yersin (Wikipedia)
From the CDC (drawing not to scale)

Three forms of plague

Once bitten by an infected flea, the disease can take one of three forms.

Influence of climate and environment

Transmission of plague to humans is dependent on fleas and rodents. Consequently, conditions that are conducive for larger numbers of fleas and rodents, are also conditions that put humans at greater risk to contracting plague. Madagascar carries the world’s burden of plague, accounting for almost 80% of cases each year. While many countries had reported cases of plague over centuries, it was only in 1898 that Madagascar had its first incidence of plague; the last plague outbreak occurred in 2014, with 119 cases including 40 deaths.

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Deepti Pradhan

Deepti Pradhan

Employed at Yale University, Deepti is primarily a scientist & patient advocate. She runs Tilde Cafe, a forum to make science accessible (www.tildecafe.org)