The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to treat 5,000 people suspected to be infected with the pneumonic plague in Madagascar, and protect 100,000 more exposed to the infectious disease with the delivery of a million antibiotic doses to the island-nation in the southeast coast of Africa.
Madagascar is currently grappling with plague, a disease more commonly associated with the Middle Ages' "Black Death" which killed 50 million Europeans.  The disease is found in small mammals and in their fleas.
Medical advances have yet to quash the disease, with thousands still being infected. Between 2010-2015, 3,248 people have been infected, and 584 died. Plague is endemic in Madagascar, with occasional  flare ups. Pneumonic plague affects the respiratory system, and can lead to respiratory failure and shock.
It has been reported that locals are scrambling to get masks and antibiotics. Since August, the Madagascar Ministry of Health has recorded 231 confirmed infections and 33 deaths, and thousands more may be exposed, or already infected. 
In response, the United Nations health agency has fast-tracked its processing to release funds to deliver much-needed antibiotics to affected residents. 
"Plague is curable if detected on time. Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save," WHO representative to Madagascar, Dr Charlotte Nidaye, said.
In addition to the initial 1.1 million antibiotic doses, 244,000 doses are set to follow shortly.
With the support of local health teams, medicines have been distributed to badly-hit areas and clinics. WHO also assisted in safe burials of the victims and in disinfection.
Pneumonic plague is considered the more dangerous of the types, the other being bubonic, which affects the lymph nodes but doesn't tranmit to humans. The pneumonic plague, on the other hand, is transmissible through droplets and affects the lungs. 
Early diagnosis and treatment lower the fatality rate, WHO said, whereas fatality rate is from 30 to 100 percent if untreated. 
"WHO and the Ministry of Health are training local health workers on how to identify and care for patients, an how to trace people who have had close contact with symptomatic patients so that they may be given protective treatment," the agency further said.
Plague presents with flu-like symptoms within 7 days from infection, such as fever, headache, weakness, chest pain, cough, watery mucous and shortness of breath. 
Presently, plague is endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru, along with Madagascar, but the potential plague natural foci are found worldwide. MIMS

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