13 March 2018 - WHO has implemented drastic changes in plague detection in Madagascar that led to rapid decline in severity and scope of the outbreak, until it was declared over in late November 2017. The time between sample collection and laboratory analysis was reduced from days to just a few hours, significantly improving survival and reduction of complications in those infected.
Improved systems that were put in place during the height of the outbreak should now be used for sustained detection and response to identify new cases that are expected until the end of the plague season in April 2018.
8 January 2018 - The Director-General of WHO has outlined his vision for a Madagascar free of plague epidemics during a three-day visit to the island nation. Madagascar can make plague epidemics a thing of the past through strategic investments in its health system – including better access to healthcare, improving preparedness, surveillance and response capabilities, and implementing the International Health Regulations.
30 November 2017 – In Madagascar, where a severe plague epidemic has unfolded since August 2017, the number of new infections is finally in decline. WHO is supporting health authorities to respond to the outbreak, from setting up specialized plague treatment units in health centres, to distributing medicines across the country.
27 November 2017 – An unprecedented outbreak of pneumonic plague that started in August in Madagascar and killed more than 200 people is declining – but WHO cautions that the response must be sustained.
Measures taken to contain the outbreak have been effective, but more infections of both bubonic and pneumonic plague are expected until the end of the plague season in April 2018.
2 November 2017 - More than 1800 suspected, probable, or confirmed plague cases were reported in Madagascar from August to late October 2017, resulting in 127 deaths. WHO has moved quickly in response to this unusually severe outbreak by supporting the Government of Madagascar, while at the same time working with nearby countries and territories to prevent regional spread.
18 October 2017 - Samples from patients in Seychelles suspected to be ill with pneumonic plague tested negative at a WHO partner laboratory in Paris, France on Tuesday, 17 October 2017.
WHO is working with the Seychelles health authorities to reduce the risk of plague spreading from neighbouring Madagascar, which faces an unprecedented outbreak that has killed more than 70 people since August. No plague cases have been confirmed in the Seychelles.
What is plague?
One of the oldest identifiable diseases known to man, plague remains endemic in many natural foci around the world. It is still widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics and in warmer areas of temperate countries. Essentially a disease of wild rodents, plague is spread from one rodent to another by flea ectoparasites and to humans either by the bite of infected fleas or when handling infected hosts. Recent outbreaks have shown that plague may reoccur in areas that have long remained silent.
Untreated, mortality - particularly from pneumonic plague - may reach high levels. When rapidly diagnosed and promptly treated, plague may be successfully managed with antibiotics such as streptomycin and tetracycline, reducing mortality from 30%-100% to less than 15%.