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  • The bubonic plague is carried by rats and spread to humans through flea bites.

    The bubonic plague is carried by rats and spread to humans through flea bites. | Photo: AFP FILE

Published 18 October 2017

The current outbreak is a pneumonic plague, which is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting.

The bubonic plague has claimed the lives of at least 74 people in Madagascar.

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The government has taken steps to fight the outbreak, closing schools and banning public assembling, amid 805 reported cases so far.

The plague has spread from remote areas in the African nation to the major cities, causing panic among residents.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made $1.5 million available to fight the disease as well as dispatched plague specialists and epidemiologists to the affect areas.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention published an update to the rapid risk assessment on the outbreak on their Twitter page.

The minister of public health put place a mandatory no-vacation policy in a bid to prevent doctors from taking time off, which would create a shortage in medical assistance.

According to WHO, Madagascar has about 400 plague cases per year – more than half of the world's total. The organization refers to the plague as a "disease of poverty" but the narrative has been challenged by the recent outbreak.

"Normally, the people who catch the plague are dirty people who live in poor areas, but in this case, we find the well-to-do, the directors, the professors, people in every place in society, catching the disease," said Dr. Manitra Rakotoarivony, Madagascar's director of health promotion.

The bubonic plague is carried by rats and spread to humans through flea bites.

The current outbreak is a pneumonic strain, which is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting.

Madagascar has fought the disease for more than a century. The plague was largely dormant for 60 years, before re-emerged in recent decades.

WHO has delivered about 1.2 million doses of antibiotics and released £1.13 million in emergency funds to fight the killer infection, but is currently revising its assessment on the risk of the disease spreading overseas.

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Africa Health

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