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Plague outbreak in Madagascar is slowing

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Madagascar’s “unprecedented” outbreak of plague is slowing, but responders cannot afford to ease off the fight until the risk of transmission dies down in the spring, the World Health Organization said Monday.

WHO officials said the number of reported cases of bubonic and pneumonic plague has steadily decreased in recent weeks, though new infections are expected until plague season ends in April.

The island nation off the southeast coast of Africa recorded more than 2,300 cases of plague between Aug. 1 and Nov. 22, resulting in 202 deaths. 

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria “Y. pestis,” which is spread by small mammals and their fleas. People are often infected by the bite of those fleas or contact with infected tissues, or by breathing in infected droplets in the air.

They suffer from fever, chills, headaches, body aches, weakness, vomiting and nausea. The death rate is 30 percent to 100 percent among people who aren’t treated, according to the WHO.

Though it’s commonly associated with the “Black Death” in Europe from centuries ago, plague is endemic to Madagascar. The latest outbreak, however, spread quickly and reached into densely populated cities that normally don’t encounter the disease.

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