- At least 143 people have died of the plague following an outbreak in Madagascar
- Another 2,000 people have been infected since the spread in August this year
- Malawi’s Dr Dan Namarika warned ‘porous borders’ may help spread the disease
- The last reported case of the plague in Malawi were reported in 2002
Published: 08:35 EST, 11 November 2017 | Updated: 13:21 EST, 11 November 2017
Malawi is bracing itself for an outbreak of the plague after the deadly disease continues to spread across the island nation of Madagascar.
At least 143 people have died and more than 2,000 others have been infected in Madagascar since an outbreak in early August this year.
Yet Malawi’s health secretary confirmed the country is ready for any reported cases of the disease amid mounting concerns of Africa’s ‘porous borders’.
Dr Dan Namarika, principal secretary in the ministry of health, said the country were working in conjunction with Mozambique to help best prepare for a possible outbreak.
More than 1,300 cases have now been reported in Madagascar, health chiefs have revealed, as nearby nations have been placed on high alert
He said: ‘We have infection prevention materials ready and groups and teams ready to be activated if there is a trigger.’
South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, La Réunion, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia and Comoros have all been warned they could be at risk from a possible outbreak as well.
The last reported case of the plague in Malawi were reported in 2002.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pledged £3.8m to combat the disease – yet predicts it may take six months to stem the outbreak.
Officials in Madagascar have warned residents not to exhume bodies of dead loved ones and dance with them because the bizarre ritual can cause outbreaks of plague
People carry a body wrapped in a sheet after taking it out from a crypt, as they take part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana
Doctors battle the deadly plague epidemic sweeping Madagascar
The strain can be cured with antibiotics and the WHO money will go towards paying for extra medical personnel, the disinfection of buildings and fuel for ambulances.
Cases have risen by eight per cent in just the space of one week and scientists are now working hard to ensure the disease does not spread from Madagascar to mainland Africa.
Health expert Professor Jimmy Whitworth described the current outbreak as the ‘worst in 50 years or more’.
HOW DID THIS YEAR’S OUTBREAK BEGIN?
Health officials are unsure how this year’s outbreak began.
However, some believe it could be caused by the bubonic plague, which is endemic in the remote highlands of Madagascar.
If left untreated, it can lead to the pneumonic form, which is responsible for two thirds of the cases recorded so far in this year’s outbreak.
Rats carry the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague, which is then passed onto their fleas.
Forest fires drive rats towards rural communities, which means residents are at risk of being bitten and infected. Local media reports suggest there has been an increase in the number of blazes in the woodlands.
Without antibiotics, the bubonic strain can spread to the lungs – where it becomes the more virulent pneumonic form.
Pneumonic, which can kill within 24 hours, can then be passed on through coughing, sneezing or spitting.
However, it can also be treated with antibiotics if caught in time.
Madagascar sees regular outbreaks of plague, which tend to start in September, with around 600 cases being reported each year on the island.
However, this year’s outbreak has seen it reach the Indian Ocean island’s two biggest cities, Antananarivo and Toamasina.
Experts warn the disease spreads quicker in heavily populated areas.