Rat plague, locusts strike Madagascar

The country's public health ministry said antibiotics will be available.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  Jan. 28, 2015 at 1:56 PM
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ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The island nation of Madagascar is dealing with a plague that has killed 57 people thus far, and said it is increasing efforts to contain its rat population.

The rats emerged after flooding caused by Tropical Storm Chedza. The storm displaced "tens of thousands of people and untold numbers of rats, raising the risk of more rodent-borne epidemics," said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, on Monday.

Public Health Minister Lalatiana Andriamanarivo said the government is organizing a response, which will include free plague treatment of antibiotics. At least 68 people died, and another 134,100 are registered "storm victims," after the storm devastated the Indian Ocean nation on Jan. 16 and for several days thereafter. Madagascar annually suffers seasonal outbreaks of plague, a bacterial infectious disease typically carried by fleas on wild rats, and the storm has worsened the number of rodents on the island.

The crisis comes as Madagascar deals with another plague, that of locusts. A year-long battle to contain locusts, which has cost $28.8 million, requires another $10.6 million immediately, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said last week.

The FAO added 40 percent of the island's crops were at risk, adding locusts are destroying Madagascar's maize, cassava and rice production.

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