‘Black Death’ plague strikes Mada­gas­car, killing 30

COUN­TRY TEM­PO­RAR­ILY SHUT DOWN PUB­LIC IN­STI­TU­TIONS AF­TER DEADLY OUT­BREAK

Gulf News - - AUSTRALIA -

ome might con­sider the plague a thing of the past, buried deep in me­dieval his­tory. But it thrives in Mada­gas­car, where the disease is a sea­sonal worry. And this year, the coun­try is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what may be its dead­li­est out­break in years: About 194 peo­ple are sus­pected to have fallen ill from the plague since Au­gust, and 30 peo­ple have died as of Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to Mada­gas­car’s Min­istry of Health. Ex­perts say they can’t re­mem­ber the last time the death toll was so high; last year, 63 peo­ple died over the course of the year, out of 275 cases.

As a re­sult of the out­break, Mada­gas­car is tem­po­rar­ily shut­ting down its pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. Gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties or­dered two uni­ver­si­ties to close, and other schools have shut their doors across the coun­try, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal, An­tana­narivo, so that the build­ings can be sprayed with in­sec­ti­cides. Peo­ple are lin­ing up to buy masks, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion is mak­ing plans to ship emer­gency sup­plies, in­clud­ing an­tibi­otics for treat­ment, pro­phy­laxis and per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

“We are scared — all of these deaths show that the sit­u­a­tion is se­ri­ous,” Miora Her­in­ja­tovo, 55, told Agence France-Presse. She got a mask from a hos­pi­tal — un­like her hus­band, who failed to get one af­ter stand­ing in line out­side a phar­macy. He in­stead col­lected a hand­ful of generic an­tibi­otics. Ex­perts say the out­break started in late Au­gust, when a 31-year-old man from the east­ern city of Toa­masina took a trip in­land to Anka­zobe, where the plague lives in ro­dent and flea pop­u­la­tions. While there, he came down with malaria-like symp­toms. He died in a taxi home, pass­ing through An­tana­narivo, the WHO said in a Septem­ber 28 state­ment.

The WHO said that many of the cases iden­ti­fied are di­rectly or in­di­rectly linked to the man, which is ev­i­dence of per­sonto-per­son trans­mis­sion. Of the 31 peo­ple who made di­rect or in­di­rect con­tact with him, four be­came ill and died, the WHO said. An­tana­narivo and Toa­masina were among the most-in­fected cities: As of Septem­ber 30, An­tana­narivo and its sub­urbs had 27 cases and seven deaths, and Toa­masina had 18 cases and five deaths.

An­tana­narivo has about 1.3 mil­lion res­i­dents, while Toa­masina has about 237,000, ac­cord­ing to a 2014 count by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Statis­tics in Mada­gas­car. Pub­lic gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing jazz fes­ti­vals and basketball tour­na­ments, have been called off to pre­vent the plague from spread­ing, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports. One of the peo­ple killed by the plague last week was a basketball coach from the Sey­chelles, who died while vis­it­ing the cap­i­tal for a basketball tour­na­ment. This plague shares the same bac­terium, Yersina pestis, that caused the “Black Death” pan­demic in Europe dur­ing the 14th cen­tury.

The most com­mon form of the plague in Mada­gas­car was, un­til this year, the bubonic plague, spread to hu­mans through in­fected fleas that con­tracted the in­fec­tion from small an­i­mals they bit, like rats. The disease is typ­i­cally spread to hu­mans by the bite of an in­fected flea, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tres for Disease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

AP

Face masks are placed on chil­dren in An­tana­narivo. Au­thor­i­ties in Mada­gas­car are strug­gling to con­tain an out­break of plague that has killed 30 peo­ple as of Tues­day.

AP

A mo­tor­cy­clist in An­tana­narivo. Pub­lic gath­er­ings, in­clud­ing jazz fes­ti­vals and basketball tour­na­ments, have been called off to pre­vent the plague from spread­ing.

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