Thought 2017 was a grind so far? Well guess what, the plague is back. That's right, the Black Death — which you may remember from such pandemic catastrophes as the time it killed 25 million people in Europe, basically one third of the population, in the Middle Ages. Well actually, it never quite went away; it pops up from time to time around the world in areas with poor sanitary conditions and health services. But thanks to antibiotics it's usually kept under pretty tidy control. Until now.
Since last week, an outbreak in Madagascar has seen 1300 people infected, with 124 reported dead so far. While the island has seen plague before — World Health Organisation notes about 600 cases are reported annually — this latest outbreak is being viewed as a significant threat as it's spread to new areas not previously infected.
Containment is also a concern as the the plague has become airborn (Pneumonic), meaning it can be spread through coughing and sneezing. For comparison, the Black Death was actually bubonic plague — meaning it spread by animals and insects. Speaking to The Sun Online, Dr Ashok Chopra, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas, described this type of plague as the "most deadly form of the disease."
Dr Chopra also suggested things could get worse before better. Pointing to frequent flights arriving and departing Madagascar as a new threat, he added: "If they [the infected] are travelling shorter distances and they're still in the incubation period, and they have the pneumonic [form] then they could spread it to other places… We don't want to have a situation where the disease spreads so fast it sort of gets out of control."
He isn't the only one worried about the infectious disease. Nine countries in southeast Africa have issued plague warnings this week. Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros were flagged as priority areas for plague preparedness and readiness. In case you're worried, symptoms are described as "flu like" and include painful lymph nodes, chills, fever, headaches, weakness and fatigue. If that sounds like you, see a doctor and stay the fuck away from me.
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