Deadly plague in Madagascar similar to ebola

The deadly plague epidemic in Madagascar which has killed 165 people appears to be similar to the ebola outbreak, a concerned scientist has warned.

Dr Derek Gatherer, from Lancaster University, revealed the plague could escalate in the same way as the haemorrhagic fever that decimated West Africa in 2014 and killed 11,000 people.

Official figures show at least 2,034 people have been struck down by a more lethal form of the “medieval disease” so far in the “worst outbreak in 50 years”.

However, it is expected that the number of cases will continue to spiral as the crisis will blight the country off the coast of south-east Africa until April.

Dr Gatherer, of the university’s biomedical and life-sciences department, said: “Following it [the plague] is a little bit like following the ebola outbreak a couple of years ago.

“By standards of plague outbreaks, this one is a whopper really, and we should hope we wouldn’t get more of these in subsequent years.

“We can’t get complacent about it until we get past that April boundary as there’s a danger of a flare-up.”

He also warned that both ebola and plague “can be passed on via close contact”, and that the virulent plague “will go for anybody”.

Data shows a 15 percent jump in fatalities over three days, with scientists concerned it has reached “crisis” point

Scientists also fear the bacterial disease could mutate and become untreatable, as the “crisis” has prompted 10 African countries to be placed on high alert, with the WHO ordering nine to step up the preparations.

Others worry the plague will spread beyond mainland Africa and eventually reach the US, Europe and Britain, leaving millions more vulnerable due to how quick it can spread.

Two thirds of the cases have been caused by the airborne pneumonic plague, which can be spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting and kill within 24 hours.

It is strikingly different to the bubonic form, responsible for the “Black Death” in the 14th century, which strikes the country each year and infects around 600 people.

Malawi was added to the growing list of nations placed urged to brace for a potential outbreak over the weekend, becoming the 10.

South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Tanzania, Mauritius, Comoros, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia have already been told to prepare.

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the world-renowned University of East Anglia, was the first expert to predict the plague could travel across the sea.

He previously told MailOnline: “The big anxiety is it could spread to mainland Africa, it’s not probable, but certainly possible, that might then be difficult to control.

“If we don’t carry on doing stuff here, at one point something will happen and it will get out of our control and cause huge devastation all around the world.”

Adding to the fears, he told the Daily Star: “There is always a risk with travel that the disease will spread globally.”

International agencies have so far sent more than one million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar. Nearly 20,000 respiratory masks have also been donated.

“We don’t want a situation where the disease spreads so fast it gets out of control. We are talking about it spreading in days rather than weeks.”

However, he was adamant that it would be easy for an economically developed country to contain the treatable disease in its current form.

How deadly was ebola?

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever that can be contracted by humans and other primates.

The outbreak began in West Africa two years ago.

The epidemic killed 11,315 people across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali and infected around 28,000.

Liberia, which was the last country to report cases, was declared ebola-free in January 2016 by the World Health Organisation.

The international response to the outbreak – which was traced back to a two-year-old boy – drew criticism for moving too slowly.

Professor Hunter’s concerns echoed that of dozens of leading scientists, many of whom have predicted the “truly unprecedented” outbreak will continue to spiral.

Professor Jimmy Whitworth, an international health scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, described it as the worst outbreak in 50 years.

And Professor Johnjoe McFadden, a molecular geneticist at Surrey University, said that the plague is “scary” and is predominantly a “disease of the poor”.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, he also said: “It’s a crisis at the moment and we don’t know how bad it’s going to get.”

Professor McFadden added: “It’s a terrible disease. It’s broadly caused more deaths of humans than anything else, it’s a very deadly pathogen.

“It is a disease of poverty where humans are being forced to live very close to rats and usually means poor sewage and poor living conditions.”

Schools and universities have been shut in a desperate attempt to contain the respiratory disease, with children known to come into contact with each other more than adults, and the buildings have been sprayed to eradicate any fleas that may carry the plague. – MailOnline.

November 2017
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