Plague outbreak could spread to continent
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