PRETORIA –The death toll of the bubonic plague outbreak in Madagascar has risen to 47, Secretary-General of the Health Ministry of the island state Philemon Tafangy said on Tuesday.

Two people have been infected in Antananarivo, one of them dying, and health workers have mounted a pest control campaign through slum areas around the city.

According to Tafangy, there had been 138 suspected cases since the beginning of the year. He then warned that the death toll was likely to rise in the coming months.

Meanwhile, The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the dispatch of health workers to sanitize slums in the capital.

Tafangy said 200 households have been disinfected this month.

He said those who had contact with the infected had been given antibiotics in a bid to arrest the spread of the disease.

The bacterial disease, which is wreaking havoc on the island nation off the coast of mainland Africa, is mainly transmitted by fleas, which often reside in the hair of rats and other rodents as reported by the

It can also be spread from person to person through coughing and can kill within 24 hours. Humans can also contract the disease if they are bitten by a disease-carrying flea.

The bubonic form prompts swelling of the lymph node, but can be treated with antibiotics.

The situation in Madagascar is all the more worrying because of a high level of resistance to insecticides targeting fleas, the UN health agency said.

Residents of the poor and overcrowded slum speak of squalid conditions, infested with rats, increasing the risk of infection.

Plague often breaks out in the vast island nation, and is usually at its worst between October and March.

The last case of plague in the capital was 10 years ago, said Christophe Rogier, of the island’s Institut Pasteur.

“It is possible that the plague continued to survive in Antananarivo for 10 years without touching humans,” with the virus restricted to its rat population, he said. “Rats are a natural reservoir of the plague, and they also survive the plague.”


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