An outbreak of the bubonic plague has reached near-epidemic proportions, after it killed at least 20 people in Madagascar last week, according to medical experts from the island country.
The Pasteur Institute of Madagascar confirmed Tuesday that 20 villagers in the northwestern town of Mandritsara did indeed die of bubonic plague, the "Black Death" sickness responsible for killing 25 million people in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries.
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According to the BBC, the plague killed 60 people
— more than any country in the world — and infected 256 in Madagascar last year.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, along with the Pasteur Institute, are now working to prevent the spread of bubonic plague in the country's prison system, where it is most common.
"If the plague gets into prisons there could be a sort of atomic explosion of plague within the town," Christophe Rogier of the Pasteur Institute told the BBC. "The prison walls will never prevent the plague from getting out and invading the rest of the town."
The bubonic plague spreads from human to human through bites from infected fleas. Symptoms can include swollen, tender lymph glands (called buboes), fever, chills, headache, and weakness. The disease can be deadly but it is easily treatable with antibiotics if detected early.
However, those in the remote Madagascar villages don’t always have access to medication, which explains the high death toll.
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