Madagascans battle to evade growing plague outbreak
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.
“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