Plague out­break could spread to con­ti­nent

The Southland Times - - WORLD -

MADA­GAS­CAR: Fears are grow­ing that a plague out­break that has killed 54 peo­ple on Mada­gas­car will spread to other densely pop­u­lated African coun­tries.

The In­dian Ocean is­land has been hit by two strains: bubonic plague, which is spread by rats, and the pneu­monic form, which can spread from per­son to per­son through cough­ing, some­times killing within 24 hours if not treated.

Mada­gas­car has suf­fered at least one case of plague al­most ev­ery year since 1980, of­ten car­ried by rats flee­ing forest fires, but the pneu­monic strain has re­cently spread to ur­ban ar­eas, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal An­tana­narivo, prompt­ing the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion to send 1.2 mil­lion doses of an­tibi­otics.

The first iden­ti­fied case was a 31-yearold man with symp­toms sim­i­lar to malaria. He trav­elled through the cap­i­tal by taxi and cases sprang up along his route.

Since then at least 500 cases have been iden­ti­fied na­tion­wide.

Pres­i­dent Hery Ra­jaonari­mampianina has de­clared Mada­gas­car ‘‘at war’’ with the dis­ease but urged peo­ple not to panic. ‘‘We have the weapons and mu­ni­tions to fight this epi­demic,’’ he said.

Pub­lic gath­er­ings have been banned and schools and uni­ver­si­ties shut. How­ever, phar­ma­cies have sold out of face masks and med­i­ca­tion.

Jo­han­nes­burg, Nairobi and Ad­dis Ababa have di­rect flights to An­tana­narivo, and health checks have been set up at trans­port hubs.

Po­lice are also look­ing search­ing for a 24-year-old scrap metal dealer in the cap­i­tal who was con­firmed as a plague car­rier then es­caped from an iso­la­tion ward in hos­pi­tal. - The Times

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