The Pasteur Institute of Madagascar confirmed yesterday that a Madagascar village had lost at least twenty people to a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague. Today, the BBC confirmed with officials that two cases of pneumonic plague – considered deadlier and more virulent than bubonic plague – have also been reported.
Above: Yersinia pestis, by Rocky Mountain Laboratories/AP via Wikimedia Commons
It bears mentioning that the bubonic and pneumonic plagues are both caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, the primary difference being the location of the infection; bubonic plague refers to an infection of the lymphatic system, pneumonic plague an infection of the respiratory system. Via the BBC:
But while bubonic plague is usually transmitted by flea bites and can be treated with antibiotics, pneumonic plague is easier to contract and if untreated, has a very high case-fatality ratio, experts say.
Madagascar's health ministry director-general Dr Herlyne Ramihantaniarivo confirmed to the BBC that two cases of the plague had been reported.
Last year, Madagascar had 60 deaths from bubonic plague, the world's highest recorded number.
These cases have reportedly occurred well outside Madagascar's normal plague season, which typically runs from July to October, and a lower elevation than usual. In this light, health officials say, recent infections are especially concerning, and suggest that the infection may be spreading.
More updates on this as it develops. For more info, visit the BBC.