Disease

Madagascar plague outbreak

In early December 2016, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Madagascar alerted WHO of a suspected plague outbreak in Befotaka district, Atsimo Atsinanana region in the south-eastern part of the country. The district is outside the area known to be endemic area in Madagascar. No plague cases have been reported in this area since 1950.

As of 27 December 2016, 62 cases (6 confirmed, 5 probable, 51 suspected) including 26 deaths (case fatality rate of 42%) have been reported in two adjacent districts in two neighboring regions of the country. 28 cases, including 10 deaths have been reported from Befotaka District in Atsimo-Atsinanana Region and 34 cases including 16 deaths have been reported from Iakora district in Ihorombe Region.

Retrospective investigations carried out in those two districts showed that it is possible that the outbreak might have started in mid-August 2016. The investigation in neighboring villages is still ongoing. On 29 December, an investigation carried out within 25 km of the initial foci in Befotaka district has reported three deaths and is being investigated further for possible linkage to the outbreak.

The affected zone is located in a very remote and hard to reach and highly insecure area (classified as red zone due to local banditry). Despite arrangements made with the local authorities, insecurity slows down the investigations and response activities.

Armyworm Hit Zimbabwe, Zambia

Farmers in southern Africa face a growing threat amid an outbreak of armyworms, a destructive pest that’s spread to Zimbabwe while continuing to decimate fields in neighbouring Zambia.

The black-striped caterpillars have infested 124,000 hectares (306,400 acres) of Zambian fields out of 1.4 million planted hectares, Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya told reporters on Tuesday in the capital, Lusaka. That’s up from an estimated 90,000 hectares last week. In Zimbabwe, the fall armyworm has been reported in seven of the eight corn-growing provinces, the government and farmers’ representatives said.

A New Disease Strikes Oak Trees in West Virginai, USA

Diplodia corticola is an aggressive disease that limits the ability of oak trees to access essential nutrients and water, ultimately killing them. It was first reported in Europe, and has since emerged in Florida, California, Massachusetts and Maine. This is the first time that it’s been found in oak trees in West Virginia.

Tree diseases aren’t new to West Virginia. In the early 1900s, chestnut blight wiped out billions of chestnut trees in the United States, including those in Appalachia. Hemlocks and ash trees are also battling illnesses. In fact, these tree diseases coupled with mass logging may have helped diplodia get its start in southern West Virginia.

The majority of the Appalachian forests were cut about 100 years ago, so all of the trees are about the same age. So they’re all equally susceptible to these pathogens. If something affects some of them, it could potentially affect all of them.

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