Madagascar faces a bubonic plague epidemic unless it slows the spread of the disease, experts have warned.
The Red Cross and Pasteur Institute say inmates in the island’s rat-infested jails are particularly at risk.
Madagascar had 256 plague cases and 60 deaths last year, the world’s highest recorded number.
“If the plague gets into prisons there could be a sort of atomic explosion of plague within the town. The prison walls will never prevent the plague from getting out and invading the rest of the town,” said the institute’s Christophe Rogier.
Experts say that Africa – especially Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo – accounts for more than 90% of cases worldwide.
3,000 inmates of Antanimora, the main prison in the heart of the capital have to deal with a huge rat population. The disease can be treated with antibiotics but the inadequacy of medical care makes this more difficult to achieve. The black plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis which is carried via fleas on rodents. The disease is not spread from person to person, just via infected fleas or their hosts, such as rats. The plague killed millions in the Middle ages before sanitation, science-based medicine and effective treatments. It will not become a world-wide killer anywhere near the same degree again.
Tip: Marcus Sprenkel