People in Madagascar are scrambling to get their hands on antibiotics and face masks, while public gatherings have been canceled, as a rare pneumonic plague epidemic spreads quickly across the country.
Plague is the deadly flea-borne bacterium you might associate with the Middle Ages, when the “Black Death” killed 50 million people, wiping out most of Europe’s population. But it’s still around today, even in the United States.
In some countries, particularly Madagascar, plague is endemic, and flare-ups cause public health emergencies on an almost annual basis — but the epidemic that’s quietly brewing there right now appears to be exceptionally worrying.
As of October 11, 500 plague cases have been identified, as well as 54 deaths. At least twenty of Madagascar’s 114 districts are now affected by the epidemic. Madagascar typically sees about 400 cases each year, when the disease surfaces from September all the way to April. …