Bubonic Plague Deadly for Madagascar

bubonic plagueBubonic plague is something many people in the west associate with the past. It was a disease that killed thousands of people in the Middle Ages, mainly in the 14th and 17th centuries. However, bubonic plague is still a problem in 2013, with 39 people currently dead from the disease in Madagascar.

This is not a new thing. Last year, there were 256 cases of the plague around the African island. From that, 60 people died. This is a higher rate than any other country, and is considered a big problem.

The last time the Western World saw this disease spread and become a major concern was in the 19th century. However, it has also been seen in the 14th and 17th centuries and was known as the Black Death due to the symptoms and number of people that died. Mass graves were dug because so many families fell victim and died. Red crosses were placed on doors of the homes with the plague, so the public were warned to stay away.

It is now known that the plague spread due to vermin, especially rats, which seems to be the case for Madagascar. Many of the prisons on the island are full of rats, especially the 3,000-inmate facility, Antanimora. The Red Cross warned that the facilities and overcrowding could lead to an outbreak across the whole country. Visitors and prison officers ran the risk of catching the disease, and would spread it to the world outside of the prison walls.

The bubonic plague really is still a problem in 2013, but that is not the only type of plague people are warned to look out for. There are three main different types to contend with. One of those, the pneumonic plague, is the reason for 90 percent of cases on the African island. This is extremely dangerous, leading to death within three days of a person being infected. There just is not the time for antibiotics to work effectively.

At the moment there are 86 confirmed cases, with 39 of those resulting in death. Five of the 112 districts have been affected, and the government has admitted that it is becoming an epidemic. The government declared the epidemic problem on November 23, although the first death was weeks before that.

The plague is mainly found in rodents, and passed through the infected fleas from the animals. The fleas will bite a human, passing the infection straight into the blood stream. It was not until 1894 that the cause of the disease was found. It was during the most recent worldwide outbreak, which started in 1855 in China. The outbreak came to an end in 1959.

It is important for anyone with the initial symptoms to see a doctor right away. Antibiotics are free in Madagascar for those who have symptoms, including a headache and fever. Without treatment, the bubonic plague, and other types, can kill two-thirds of those infected.

Many people around the world believe that bubonic plague is not still a problem in 2013. However, this is not the case, as is shown in Madagascar. While medicine and knowledge has advanced over recent years, the disease is still carried by rats, so the plague is still around.

By Alexandria Ingham

South China Morning Post


National Geographic

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