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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid