News / Africa

Madagascar Faces New, Terrifying Threat - Bubonic Plague

FILE - Malagasy women wait to be seen by a doctor in a clinic in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
FILE - Malagasy women wait to be seen by a doctor in a clinic in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Anita Powell
— The already troubled African island of Madagascar faces a new and terrifying threat:  bubonic plague. In recent years, the Indian Ocean nation has become the world's top site for the storied disease, with hundreds of cases and scored of plague deaths last year. Aid officials are warning that things could get worse unless more is done to prevent and fight the spread of the often-deadly disease.
 
Madagascar is the world’s hotspot for this flea-borne disease. It first gained infamy in the 14th century for killing some 25 million people in Europe. That epidemic earned the disease its ominous nickname, Black Death.
 
Last year, Madagascar saw more cases of bubonic plague than anywhere in the world, with 256 cases and 60 deaths. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says that some 500 cases have been recorded on the island every year since 2009.

The ICRC this week announced a campaign with Malagasy authorities to eliminate flea-ridden disease-carrying rodents in a prison in the capital. Prisons in the nation are often overcrowded and dirty, making them ideal breeding grounds for disease.

Bubonic plague is rare in the modern era. But ICRC spokesman Jean-Yves Clémenzo says it persists in some pockets of the world, like Madagascar. He spoke to VOA from Geneva. “It’s not only Madagascar. You have still cases of plague in around 15 countries in the world, mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and some South American countries," he stated. "It's mainly due to poor health conditions, poor infrastructure.”

Bubonic plague sounds terrifying because it is. Victims who are bitten by plague-infected fleas -- carried on rats -- often develop painful lymph-node swelling, flu-like symptoms and gangrene on their extremities. Without life-saving antibiotics, about two-thirds of those infected will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Medical officials say plague is not spread from person to person. But no vaccine is available.
 
Clémenzo said that it is vital to not hesitate if you are bitten by a flea and begin to experience symptoms. “So if you fear that you have plague, that you have bites on the body, what is important is to react very quickly, as the disease can spread and people can die in 24 hours. So it’s important to contact, to go to the [nearest] health facility or to contact the Institute Pasteur in Antananarivo and to act very, very, very quickly,” he explained.
 
Madagascar has had some severe problems recently. The cyclone-prone island has suffered recent tragedies of almost Biblical proportions, including a locust invasion, flooding and drought.

Those natural problems are exacerbated by the island’s decline in recent years. A 2009 coup has made the island increasingly isolated and aid officials say they have seen an economic decline since then.

Earlier this week, two U.N. agencies reported that as many as 4 million people in rural parts of the country are now food insecure because of a large-scale crop failure.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Moses Olabowale Olajide from: Nigeria.
October 11, 2013 9:26 PM
Please,let all relevant world organizations and well meaning African/local,good Samaritans arise NOW for these people.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid