Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being moved out of Madagascar following an outbreak of the plague in the Indian Ocean island nation, Church leaders announced Thursday, Oct. 19.
"Due to the emerging outbreak of plague in Madagascar, as a precautionary measure, the missionaries serving on the island of Madagascar are in the process of being transferred out of this area or temporarily reassigned to other missions," according to a Church statement released on Mormon Newsroom.
Plague cases have been rising in Madagascar. First detected in late August, the outbreak has reportedly infected about 800 people. To date, the outbreak has killed at least 74 people, according to The Guardian.
A total of 69 missionaries are being relocated or reassigned. An additional ten missionaries who are nearing the end of their mission service will return home. Missionaries from the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission who are serving on the islands of Mauritius and Reunion will remain.
"Ensuring the health and safety of our missionaries is our top priority. In recent weeks measures have been taken to reduce risk to missionaries, including providing them with prescription medication to help prevent plague and asking them to remain in their apartments," said Church leaders in the statement. "There are no reports of illness among the missionaries. Families are being notified as the missionaries are temporarily reassigned.
"This is a very challenging situation for the missionaries, members and citizens of these countries, and we are taking every practical step to reduce risk and praying for their health and safety."
Although plague outbreaks in Madagascar have been an annual occurrence in recent decades, the outbreak has, unusually, affected urban areas where plague is not normally endemic, according to The Guardian.
This further increases the risk of transmission. The World Health Organization has delivered 1.2 million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar in response to the outbreak.
"Plague is curable if detected in time. Our teams are working to ensure that everyone at risk has access to protection and treatment. The faster we move, the more lives we save," said Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO Representative in Madagascar, in a WHO news release.
Madagascar is home to about 11,300 Mormons. The Church received legal status there in 1993. Five years later, the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission was organized.
The country’s first stake, the Antananarivo Madagascar Stake, was organized on Sept. 17, 2000. The Malagasy translation of the Book of Mormon was published in February of 2000.