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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More