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Wednesday, 01 November 2017 - 18:10
Deadly airborne plague in Madagascar
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Relatives dancing with the dead bodies of their loved ones as part of an ancient ritual is fueling the spread of plague in Madagascar, officials claim.
Madagascans have been urged to stop the Famadihana tradition, a practice that involves digging up dead relatives, wrapping them in fresh cloth and dancing with them before putting them back underground.
 
Experts fear the ancient ritual has accelerated the spread of plague, which has now infected more than 1,300 people. It has prompted warnings in nine nearby countries - South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros, and Mauritius.
 
At least 93 deaths have been recorded, but UN estimates the toll may already be as high as 124.
 
It is caused by the same bacteria that wiped out at least 50 million people in Europe in the 1300s.
 
Officials are growing concerned as around two-thirds of the cases are suspected to be pneumonic plague - described as the 'deadliest and most rapid form of plague'.
 
It is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting and can kill within 24 hours.
 
Willy Randriamarotia, the Madagascan health ministry's chief of staff, said: 'If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then interred in a tomb that is subsequently opened for a Famadihana, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body.'
 
(Daily Mail)
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