Mada­gas­cans bat­tle to evade grow­ing plague out­break

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

AN­TANA­NARIVO: The lit­tle foot­bridge near Justin Raka­toarivony’s home is sub­merged in a murky green liq­uid the tex­ture of sewage. But he has no choice but to cross it every day on his way to work in An­tana­narivo, the cap­i­tal of Mada­gas­car. The filthy con­di­tions in his area, the south­ern Am­pe­filoha district, make him worry that he will be the next vic­tim of the plague out­break sweep­ing the coun­try. His fear is far from un­founded: the dis­ease has al­ready killed 21 peo­ple in An­tana­narivo since Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to the health min­istry. “The plague is a dis­ease that comes from the filth, be­cause the filth at­tracts rats, and rats carry fleas which trans­mit the plague to hu­mans,” said Rako­toarivony, 45.

“I fear get­ting the plague here, but I don’t have any choice, I have to cross this bridge every day, so I do it at speed.” Rako­toarivony is one of many on the Indian Ocean is­land na­tion who are in­creas­ingly fear­ful of the un­usu­ally vir­u­lent out­break that has so far killed 48 peo­ple na­tion­wide and in­fected 239 in the cap­i­tal and its out­skirts. Ev­ery­one who crosses the bridge puts on a brave face de­spite the flow of brack­ish wa­ter and do­mes­tic rub­bish be­neath. “The plague can kill in 12 hours,” Ed­mond Rako­ton­dra­soa, 46, a used-phone sales­man said.

“But I’m not scared be­cause I’m a be­liever and God wrote in the Bi­ble, ‘I will pro­tect you from all epi­demics’.” Scrap-metal mer­chants do busi­ness be­side the ac­cu­mu­lated de­tri­tus near the canal with­out a thought for the un­hy­gienic sur­round­ings. Mada­gas­car’s out­break in­cludes bubonic plague, in which the germ Yersinia pestis is spread by in­fected rats via fleabites, and pneu­monic plague, a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous form which spreads from per­son to per­son via air­borne droplets. One of the traders there has al­ready been di­ag­nosed as a car­rier of pneu­monic plague. The in­di­vid­ual was hos­pi­tal­ized in a spe­cial­ist clinic in An­tana­narivobut dis­charged him­self be­fore com­plet­ing his treat­ment.

‘Spit­ting blood’

“Fol­low­ing our ef­forts to raise aware­ness about the plague, a group brought in a 24-year-old man who was spit­ting blood,” said Ra ben­jamin a hob ian in­tra Ha­ri­manana, head doc­tor at the Isotry Cen­tral health clinic. “Tests (for plague) came back pos­i­tive, so after be­ing given ini­tial treat­ment he was sent to the Am­bo­himian­dra Anti-plague Clinic. “But he es­caped from the cen­tre and was seen once again trad­ing in the mar­ket.”—AFP

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