A health crisis has engulfed Madagascar as 19 lives have been claimed by plague, and 85 others have been infected in just two months; the health minister of the island revealed.
Plague, a highly infectious disease carried by small mammals like rats, killed millions of people across the world in the past but has been largely wiped out. “We have recorded 104 suspected cases of plague across Madagascar of which 19 have died. This year the plague season has started quite early and in brutal fashion," the Health Minister told the media.
The brutality has been evident, especially when one considers the first death that occurred on 28 August, when a passenger died in a public taxi en route to a town on the east coast. Two others who came into contact with the passenger also died, while two more succumbed to the disease in centre of the island. Madagascar has suffered plague outbreaks every year since 1980, often fuelled by rats fleeing forest fires.
Plague can be cured with antibiotics but can be fatal within 24 hours if it affects the lungs. The high incidence in Madagascar has been attributed to poor hygiene and insufficient healthcare. The minister said a young girl who died of the disease in the capital Antananarivo had apparently been involved in a ceremony retrieving the bodies of deceased family members, rewrapping their remains and dancing with the corpses.
The minister added that medicines are enough to care the patients of plague and the budget of his department is enough to face the epidemics with the support of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
Urging Malagasy people to rush to nearby hospital in case of strange disease, Hery Randriamanjato, the director of Partnership under the ministry of Health, said the care of plague is free in Madagascar.
Marcellin Randrema, the director of fight against plague under the ministry of Health, said that victims' families do not dare to declare the case of plague to hospital for fear of burying their family members outside their ancestral tomb, which quickened the spreading of the plague in the country.
He explained that a person killed by plague cannot be removed from his tomb earlier than seven years, but Malagasy people practice the famadihana, a funerary tradition known as the turning of the bones of the corpses, for every three years, five years or seven years.
Arthur Lamina, who is in charge of plague under the WHO, said his organization is doing its best to help Madagascar's government take all necessary measures to stop or alleviate the spreading of the plague.