Madagascar's plague outbreak has so far claimed 74 lives and infected hundreds around the island, a new report has said, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) ramps up efforts to tackle the fatal disease.

On 6 October, WHO announced they were sending 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and $1.5m (£1.1m) of emergency funds to the island nation off the south-east coast of the African continent.

"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, a WHO representative in Madagascar.

According to The Guardian, the disease is now thought to have infected 684 people as of 12 October and killed 74. The first case is believed to have been a man who developed Malaria-like symptoms, took a crowded minibus taxi and died, whereupon his body was handled without precautions.

The WHO said that the emergency drug supply was enough to treat up to 5,000 patients and protect 100,000 people, the organisation added they would help with disinfectant materials and protective equipment for health professionals. At the time, the WHO reported 231 infections and 33 deaths.

Thursday's Guardian report said that 474 of the cases were of the more virulent pneumonic plague, while 156 were bubonic, one was septicaemic and 54 were unidentified. The report added that though Madagascar has seen annual plague outbreaks, this year's has spread in urban areas, making it much more deadly.

Though the plague is often thought of as a disease confined to the Middle Ages, parts of the world still suffer continuous outbreaks. In the US, there are two main areas where plague cases are discovered: northern New Mexico, northern Arizona and southern Colorado; or California, southern Oregon and far west Nevada.

In June 2017, two cases of bubonic plague were discovered in New Mexico – the state's department of health reported four cases of human plague in 2016.

WHO officials had worried that Madagascar's outbreak had spread to the Seychelles in the north but samples tested in a Paris laboratory came back negative, the organisation said on Wednesday, 18 October.