Introduction: Between August and November 2017, Madagascar reported nearly 2500 cases of plague; the vast majority of these cases were pneumonic, resulting in early exponential growth due to person-to-person transmission. Though plague is endemic in Madagascar, cases are usually bubonic and thus result in considerably smaller annual caseloads than those observed from August–November 2017.
Methods: In this study, we consider the transmission dynamics of pneumonic plague in Madagascar during this time period, as well as the role of control strategies that were deployed to curb the outbreak and their effectiveness.
Results: When using data from the beginning of the outbreak through late November 2017, our estimates for the basic reproduction number range from 1.6 to 3.6, with a mean of 2.4. We also find two distinctive periods of “control”, which coincide with critical on-the-ground interventions, including contact tracing and delivery of antibiotics, among others.
Discussion: Given these results, we conclude that existing interventions remain effective against plague in Madagascar, despite the atypical size and spread of this particular outbreak.