Nine countries, including Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Comoros, Mauritius and Kenya have been put on alert after a deadly outbreak of airborne plague hit Madagascar.
Since October 12, 684 plague cases have been identified on the East African island, including 57 deaths – and the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) reports that at least 35 of Madagascar’s 114 districts are now affected by the epidemic.
W.H.O. has revealed two thirds of those cases are suspected to be pneumonic – meaning that the disease is airborne and can easily spread through sneezing and coughing. Pneumonic plague is often referred to by health experts as the “deadliest and most rapid [spreading] form of plague.”
Unlike previous years, this current outbreak is considered to be a much greater threat to the entire East African region because of its pneumonic form, a form that can kill within 24 hours.
The most common form of plague, bubonic plague, is usually spread through insects and rodents, and was synonymous with 14th century Europe – where it wiped out at least 50 million people.
The outbreak is reportedly moving quickly, the disease is believed to have already infected 50 aid workers and threatens to reach the Seychelles, South Africa and La Reunion.
The African branch of the W.H.O. states 93 people have lost their lives to the disease so far, lower than the 124 noted in official U.N. figures.
“The risk of the disease spreading is high at national level… because it is present in several towns and this is just the start of the outbreak,” a W.H.O. official said.
*This article was originally posted on CGTN Africa