Plague in Madagascar

Updated: November 02, 2017



Original publication date: October 13, 2017

What is plague?

Plague is a disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis.  This bacteria is usually found in small animals (including rats, squirrels and other rodents) and their fleas.

You can become infected with plague through:

There are three types of plague:

What are the symptoms of plague?

Symptoms of plague can appear one to seven days after contact and they can vary depending on the form of plague. They are usually flu-like and can include the following:

Is there a vaccine for plague?

There is no vaccine available for travellers.

All forms of plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early.  If left untreated it can progress rapidly to death.

What is the situation in Madagascar?

Cases of bubonic plague are reported in Madagascar nearly every year between September and April.

Currently, Madagascar is experiencing a serious outbreak of pneumonic plague which can be spread from person to person.  An increased number of pneumonic plague and bubonic plague are being reported throughout the country, including areas that do not usually experience plague. The most affected areas are Antananarivo (the capital), Toamasina (the port city) and Faratsiho (rural district). For more information, see the plague outbreak situation report. This report includes a map showing where in Madagascar cases of plague are being reported. For more information see the updates on plague.

The World Health Organization and Madagascar's Ministry of Public Health are rapidly responding to this situation. To help prevent international spread of plague, they have implemented exit screening for those departing the country.

Exit screening varies from country to country and occurs at airport, ports, and border crossings. This may include:

Cooperation with exit screening helps to contain a disease, and prevent a larger epidemic.

How can you protect yourself from plague?

Before you travel you should:

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel. 

During your trip:

Protect yourself from flea bites while travelling to Madagascar.

Avoid contact with:

If you have had contact with someone with pneumonic plague, you should immediately contact a health care provider.  You may need antibiotics to prevent infection.

Wash your hands frequently.

Health care workers that may come into contact with someone with pneumonic plague:

While you are in Madagascar, or returning to Canada:

Monitor your health

If you develop symptoms of plague:

Stop the spread of germs

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up for free with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or at home.

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