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Madagascar faces bubonic plague breakout due to filthy prisons

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Health officials warn that the African island nation of Madagascar faces a potential outbreak of the bubonic plague. Filthy prison conditions has led to an overpopulation of the rodent population. The disease, spread by rats, wiped out half of the entire European continent in the 14th century.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "If the plague gets into prisons, there could be a sort of atomic explosion of plague within the town," the Pasteur Institute's Christophe Rogier told reporters. "The prison walls will never prevent the plague from getting out and invading the rest of the town."

Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar, a nonprofit research organization, have been leading efforts to improve prison hygiene since February of last year.

Both the committee and prison authorities have announced that they had launched a campaign to prevent an epidemic of the disease in Antanimora Prison, where 3,000 inmates are held.

The inmates there are at particular risk due to overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and a chronic rat infestation.

"Rat control is essential for preventing the plague, because rodents spread the bacillus to fleas that can then infect humans. So the relatives of a detainee can pick up the disease on a visit to the prison. And a released detainee returning to his community without having been treated can also spread the disease," Christoph Vogt, head of the ICRC delegation in Madagascar, said.

The continent of Africa accounts for more than 90 percent of bubonic plague cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Madagascar experiences an outbreak annually, with 500 reported cases. The disease peaks in October due to hot and humid conditions which breeds fleas. The fleas then transmit the disease to rats and other animals, which is then spread to humans.

If caught early, the disease is easily curable with antibiotics according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poverty and a lack of facilities, however, prevent many from seeking medical help.

Disinfection measures and insecticide spraying will be carried out by detainees and prison staff.

Madagascar recorded 256 cases and 60 deaths from bubonic plague last year, according to WHO figures.

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