Is Madagascar facing a bubonic plague epidemic?
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.
The number of cases rises each October as hot humid weather attracts [promotes breeding of] fleas, which transmit the disease from rats and other animals to humans. Madagascar had 256 plague cases and 60 deaths in 2012, the world’s highest recorded number.
Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.
The prevalence of rats in Madagascar’s prisons means the plague can spread easily. Fleas from plague-carrying rats infect prisoners, prison guards and visitors. And rats, unlike the prisoners, can go in and out of jail anytime. The threat to the general population is clear.