Plague kills 94 in Madagascar

Red Cross volunteers talk to villagers about the plague outbreak, 30 miles west of Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2017

Plague kills 94 in Madagascar

GENEVA: A plague epidemic has killed 94 people on the island of Madagascar and could spread further, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
WHO’s Africa Emergencies Director Ibrahima Soce Fall told reporters in Geneva the organization was racing to stop both the Madagascar plague and an outbreak of the Ebola-like Marburg virus in Uganda that it was confident it could contain.
Plague is endemic in Madagascar, but the outbreak that has caused 1,153 suspected cases since August is especially worrying because it started earlier in the season than usual, it has hit towns rather than rural areas, and it is mainly causing pneumonic plague, the most deadly form of the disease.
The outbreak already looks big when compared with the 3,248 cases and 584 deaths reported worldwide from 2010 to 2015. Fall said the risk to Madagascar remained very high, although the international risk was very low.
WHO has delivered antibiotics to Madagascar to treat up to 5,000 patients and as a prophylactic dose for up to 100,000 people who might be at risk, as well as 150,000 sets of personal protective equipment.
About 2,000 healthworkers are tracing people who have had contact with plague sufferers, which should allow the disease to be controlled relatively quickly, Fall said.
“I’m confident that with the strong team we have on the ground, combined with more partners coming and health workers, we will be able very quickly to reverse the trend.”
In Uganda, WHO hopes to halt an outbreak of Marburg, a highly infectious haemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, which killed a 50-year-old woman on Oct. 11, three weeks after her brother died of similar symptoms.
“The positive thing is that Uganda is very used to managing this kind of outbreak,” Fall said. In the past decade, Uganda has already had four outbreaks of Marburg. An outbreak can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch the disease.
Several hundred people may have been exposed to the virus at health facilities and at a traditional burial of the dead woman’s brother, who worked as a game hunter and lived near a cave inhabited by Rousettus bats, natural hosts of the Marburg virus.


Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

Updated 36 min 46 sec ago

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

  • Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt
  • During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed criticisms of planned reforms to the euro zone bailout fund on Wednesday, saying the proposals, which have been heavily attacked by right-wing opposition parties, posed no threat to Italy.

Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt, the highest in the euro area as a proportion of national output after Greece’s.

“Italy has nothing to fear ... its debt is fully sustainable, as the main international institutions, including the (EU) Commission have said,” Conte told parliament ahead of a European Council meeting this week to discuss the reform.

He repeated that Rome would not agree to any restrictions on banks holding sovereign debt.

During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties, saying they appeared aimed at undermining Italy’s membership of the single currency.

“Some of the positions that have emerged during the public debate have unveiled the ill-concealed hope of bringing our country out of the euro zone or even from the European Union,” Conte said.

The League and Brothers of Italy have attacked the planned reforms to the ESM, which they say will open the door for a forced restructuring of Italy’s public debt that would hit Italian banks and savers who invest in government bonds.

Some members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement have made similar criticisms, adding to tensions with their partner in the ruling coalition, the center-left Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from 5 Star and the Democratic Party appeared to have smoothed over their differences on Wednesday, however, agreeing to drop demands for a veto on measures that could make it easier to reach a debt restructuring accord.

In a final resolution, they scrapped calls for a veto on so-called single limb collective action clauses (CACS), that limit the ability of individual investors to delay any restructuring agreement by holding out for better terms.

Under the new system, restructuring would go ahead after a single, aggregate vote by bondholders regarding all affected bonds while the clauses currently in place require an aggregate vote as well as an individual bond-by-bond vote.

Italy has asked to clarify that the new clauses will not rule out the so-called sub-aggregation, allowing separate votes for different groups of bond issuances to protect small investors, a government official told Reuters.