Deadly airborne plague in Madagascar is ‘worst in 50 years’ and spike in cases expected this weekend following celebrations to honour the dead

Thursday, November 2, 2017
By Paul Martin

All Saints Day may trigger a spike in cases this weekend, aid workers believe
At least 1,800 people have been infected so far – 3 times the expected amount
Two thirds are suspected to be pneumonic plague – which can kill in 24 hours
However, the island’s dreaded plague season still has six months left to run

2 November 2017

his year’s deadly airborne plague outbreak in Madagascar is the ‘worst to strike the country in 50 years’, experts have today revealed.

Aid workers have also warned annual celebrations to honour the dead earlier this week will trigger a spike in cases in the coming days as people will have came into close contact with each other.

Plague season hits Madagascar each year and still has six months to run, however at least 1,800 people have been infected so far – three times the expected amount.

Reports state 127 deaths have been recorded, with most caused by the airborne pneumonic plague, which is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting and can kill within 24 hours if untreated.

Professor Jimmy Whitworth, an international public health scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, revealed the rapid spread could continue as the airborne disease has reached heavily populated cities.
He told MailOnline: ‘Madagascar is the most plague endemic country in the world and has outbreaks every year at about this time, this outbreak though is the worst for 50 years or more.

Panu Saaristo, the International Federation of Red Cross’ team leader for health in Madagascar, warned it is likely the plague will have spread after crowds gathered to celebrate the dead for All Saints Day on Wednesday.

‘In that type of situation, it may be easy to forget about respiratory etiquettes,’ he told MailOnline.

If bubonic plague – which is transmitted by flea bites and killed around 100 million people during the ‘Black Death’ in the 14th century – is left untreated, it can turn into pneumonic – described as the ‘deadliest and most rapid form of plague’.

The ‘truly unprecedented’ outbreak has prompted warnings in nine nearby countries which are now on high alert – South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros and Mauritius.

Earlier this week MailOnline revealed the ‘Godzilla’ El Niño has been blamed for the severity of this year’s outbreak in Madagascar.

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