Plague Breaks Out in Madagascar

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. outbreak / ˈaʊtˌ breɪk / (n) – a sudden spread of a disease

    Government officials warned about the outbreak of the new virus.

  2. sweep through / swip θru / (idiom) – to spread quickly

    A virus has swept through the city.

  3. join forces / dʒɔɪn fɔrsɛs / (idiom) – to collaborate

    Health experts joined forces with the government to raise awareness about the disease.

  4. fumigation / ˈfyu mɪˌgeɪ ʃən / (n) – a method of disinfection that uses gas or smoke

    The school will conduct a fumigation to kill pests.

  5. quarantine / ˈkwɔr ənˌtin / (n) – a state of isolation to prevent disease transmission

    People who were in contact with disease-infected patients are usually placed under quarantine.


Read the text below.

A plague  / pleɪg / outbreak has swept through Madagascar, with the number of cases on the rise.

The country is reported to have an annual average of 300 to 600 cases of the disease. However, this year’s rate has exceeded the said estimate as the plague spreads to areas such as ports and Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo /ˌɑn təˌnɑ nəˈri voʊ /.

A plague is a disease resulting from Yersinia pestis [yer-sin-yuh pes-tis], a type of bacterium transmitted through direct contact with flea-infested mammals like rats. According to the WHO, manifestations of the disease are similar to those of the flu. Its symptoms include chills, fever, headaches, and fatigue.

A Madagascar-based WHO representative claims that the outbreak started after an infected man traveled from a coastal area to the capital. The man died while in transit. On another note, Jacques Razafindraibe [zhak rah-zuh-fin-drahy-beh], a public official in Antananarivo, attributes this outbreak to the country’s state of poverty. He said that locals prioritize basic necessities like food more than personal hygiene.

To combat the disease, the WHO has joined forces with the Madagascar government by temporarily closing down public institutions and banning public gatherings. A fumigation was also conducted in schools and medical masks were distributed. In addition, the WHO donated $1.5 million and delivered a lot of antibiotics.

Experts warn that patients affected by the plague need to receive treatment as soon as possible to avoid the risk of death. Patients with severe cases should be put under quarantine. Those who had contact with infected patients are also advised to undergo strict medical observation.

In addition, experts recommend proper management of rat population to reduce the risk of a plague. People who are highly at risk may have themselves vaccinated, but further research needs to be conducted on the vaccine’s effectiveness as a preventive measure.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the efforts of the WHO and the Madagascar government are enough to combat the plague? Why or why not?
• What hygiene practices should people follow to protect themselves against the plague?

Discussion B

• How can a disease outbreak affect people’s lifestyles?
• Aside from health organizations, which sectors should the government join forces with to prevent a disease outbreak (e.g. media, IT)?