Madagascar has been dealing with a devastating outbreak of the Black Death, and the plague could spread quickly to neighboring countries.
1,947 cases of the pneumonic and bubonic plague have been confirmed in Madagascar, and Madagascar’s traditional custom of Famadihana, in which families dig up their deceased relatives to honor the bodies before reburial, has only made things worse.
Now, neighboring countries are preparing to take whatever measures they can to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
Malawi and several other African nations are on high alert as health officials worry that the plague outbreak could spread across international borders.
From Daily Mail:
At least 143 people have died and more than 2,000 others have been infected in Madagascar since an outbreak in early August this year.
Yet Malawi’s health secretary confirmed the country is ready for any reported cases of the disease amid mounting concerns of Africa’s ‘porous borders’.
Dr Dan Namarika, principal secretary in the ministry of health, said the country were working in conjunction with Mozambique to help best prepare for a possible outbreak.
He said: ‘We have infection prevention materials ready and groups and teams ready to be activated if there is a trigger.’
South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, La Réunion, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia and Comoros have all been warned they could be at risk from a possible outbreak as well.
The last reported case of the plague in Malawi were reported in 2002.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pledged £3.8m to combat the disease – yet predicts it may take six months to stem the outbreak.
The plague has caused little need for concern in recent decades, but that could soon change if the plague leaks into mainland African countries.
The disease spread quickly through Madagascar this year, and rampant spread of the rare disease could kill thousands more if isn’t contained soon.
The tradition in Madagascar of reopening graves has been banned since the outbreak began. According to the Sun, the custom played a key role in the plague’s spread throughout the country.
A Doctors Without Borders doctor told Express that the plague transformed, through lack of treatment, into a more contagious form.
Dr Tim Jagatic, a doctor with Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), told Express.co.uk about the cause of this year’s shocking outbreak.
He said: “From November until April, there tends to be an outbreak of an average of 400 cases of bubonic plague per year.
“But what happened this year is it looks like there was a case which happened a little bit earlier, in the month of August.
“If a bubonic case goes untreated, it has the ability to transform into the pneumonic form.
“It seems as though somebody who had the bubonic form didn’t get treatment, allowing the plague to transform into the pneumonic form.
“He entered the capital city and then fell sick on a bus that was travelling to Toamasina, and a medical student tried to help him.
“The medical student came into close contact with him and because it was the pneumonic form of the disease, happening earlier than its expected to in a part of the country where it typically doesn’t occur, it went unnoticed for a particular amount of time which allowed the disease to proliferate.”
Dr Jagatic added: “A very important part of epidemiology is trying to find who or what was ‘patient zero’, so that we’ll be able to track exactly how it spread, what dangers it poses, who was in contact with that person.
“Once we find that out, it really helps us to cut the chain of transmission and find out what areas of a country we have to focus our resources on.”
Comparisons have been made between the Madagascar outbreak this year and the 14th century Black Death, one of the worst plague outbreaks in human history which is widely believed to have caused the world population to shrink from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century.
According to the World Health Organization, human transmission of bubonic plague is rare, but once the disease transitions into pneumonic plague, it can be transited via inhaled water droplets from person to person.