The deadly airborne plague, a form of the infamous Black Death that swept through Europe during the 14th century, is now according to the World Health Organization (WHO) hit a Crisis Point.
Over the last five days, cases have jumped by 37 percent with the WHO no tracking a suspected 1,801 cases. The deadly outbreak, which is now worse than any other plague outbreak in the last 50 years, is being fueled by a strain that is even more deadly than the Black Death which left 200 MILLION dead across the world.
According to health experts, this current outbreak is actually made up of THREE plagues: Bubonic, pneumonic, and septicaemic. Of those, the Pneumonic form, a super strain of the yersinia pestis bacterium which ALWAYS results in death, is most concerning because of how quickly it’s spreading.
Two-thirds of this year’s cases have been caused by the airborne pneumonic plague, which can be spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or bodily fluids. It is different to the traditional bubonic form that strikes the country each year and is a more dangerous form of the disease.
Untreated, about 30 to 60 percent of people who contract bubonic plague die. Untreated pneumonic plague is always deadly, typically within 24 hours of disease onset.
World Health Organisation advice warns: “The pneumonic form is invariably fatal unless treated early. It is especially contagious and can trigger severe epidemics through person-to-person contact via droplets in the air.”
Both Bubonic and pneumonic plague can be cured using antibiotics if detected and treated in time (within 24 hours of onset of symptoms).
The unprecedented pneumonic outbreak has prompted warnings in nine nearby countries – South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros and Mauritius.
WHO has delivered nearly 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and released US$1.5 million dollars in emergency funds to fight plague in Madagascar. Meanwhile, the Red Cross has been training hundreds of volunteers on the island to publicise preventative measures.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, a zoonotic bacteria, usually found in small mammals and their fleas.
People infected with plague usually develop “flu-like” symptoms after an incubation period of 3-7 days. Typical symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, chills, head and body-aches and weakness, vomiting and nausea.
There are three forms of plague infection, depending on the route of infection: bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea. Plague bacillus, Y. pestis, enters at the bite and travels through the lymphatic system to the nearest lymph node where it replicates itself. The lymph node then becomes inflamed, tense and painful, and is called a “bubo”. At advanced stages of the infection the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into suppurating open sores. There is no inter human transmission of bubonic plague.
Septicaemic plague occurs when infection spreads through the bloodstream Septicaemic plague may result from flea bites and from direct contact with infective materials through cracks in the skin. Advanced stages of the bubonic form of plague will also lead to direct spread of Y. pestis in the blood.
Pneumonic plague-or lung-based plague- is the most virulent and least common form of plague. Typically, the pneumonic form is caused by spread to the lungs from advanced bubonic plague. However, a person with secondary pneumonic plague may form aerosolized infective droplets and transmit plague via droplets to other humans. Untreated pneumonic plague has a case-fatality ratio close to 100%.
Untreated plague can be rapidly fatal, so early diagnosis and treatment are essential for survival and reduction of complications. If diagnosed early, plague can be cured with antibiotics and supportive care.