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94 deaths from plague in Madagascar, U.N. health agency says

Ibrahima Soce Fall, Regional Emergency Director for Africa, of the World Health Organization, WHO, speaks during a press conference, about the Update on the plague situation in Madagascar, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Martial Trezzini / Associated Press)
Ibrahima Soce Fall, Regional Emergency Director for Africa, of the World Health Organization, WHO, speaks during a press conference, about the Update on the plague situation in Madagascar, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. (Martial Trezzini / Associated Press)
Associated Press

GENEVA – An unusually large plague outbreak in Madagascar has taken 94 lives, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The number of suspected cases has reached 1,153, Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, Africa emergencies chief for the U.N. health agency, told reporters in Geneva.

More cases are expected, “but we think we can affect the curve very quickly thanks to the deployment of human resources and all types of intervention,” he said. International agencies have sent more than one million doses of antibiotics and deployed medical teams.

Plague is endemic in Madagascar, but this year’s outbreak is unusual because for the first time the disease has affected the Indian Ocean island’s two biggest cities, Antananarivo and Toamasina.

More than 70 percent of the cases are pneumonic plague, a more virulent form that spreads through coughing, sneezing or spitting and is almost always fatal if untreated. In some cases, it can kill within 24 hours. Like the bubonic form that often is found in Madagascar’s remote highlands, it can be treated with common antibiotics if caught in time.

WHO has said the risk of global spread of the outbreak is low and it advises against travel or trade restrictions. It seeks $5.5 million to support the plague response.

The Red Cross is sending its first-ever plague treatment center.

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