Expats in Madagascar warned about plague outbreak

Published:  23 Oct at 6 PM
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The international expat community in Madagascar are being warned of a rapidly spreading outbreak of plague.

Government departments in Madagascar are warning all expats, residents and visitors to take care as the country’s health authorities rush to stem the rapid spread of the disease known historically as the Black Plague. The plague is endemic in Madagascar, but this year’s outbreak has already killed 94 people and is spreading rapidly. World governments including the UK, UAE and Portugal, have issued updated travel advice, and the World Health Organisation is racing to stop the epidemic in its tracks.

Unusually, the outbreak is focused on towns and cities rather than in rural areas, with health officials in the country’s two biggest cities of Toamasina and Antananarivo reporting its spread at an ‘alarming rate’. Over 70 per cent of recorded cases are of the more virulent pneumonic plague, spread through spitting, coughing and sneezing and usually fatal if left untreated. The bubonic version of the plague usually occurs in Madagascar’s remote mountainous areas and is equally fatal.

International agencies have rushed more than a million doses of antibiotics as well as medical teams to the affected areas, and medical experts are reassuring visitors from overseas that it’s unlikely to spread outside the island. Pneumonic plague is curable with antibiotics if caught in time, but can kill within 24 hours of infection. The WHO is advising against travel restrictions as the risk of global spread is very low, but concerned travellers and tourists might well prefer to postpone their trips.

Madagascar’s expat community is truly international, although there are no expat organisations as such. Britons from London, Glasgow, Cardiff and other major cities blend in with expats from Australia, the USA, Canada, China, Russia, several European countries and India to form a vibrant community on the spectacular island. Many work in conservation and eco-tourism, with engineering, teaching English, agriculture, telecommunications and IT also popular employment sectors for expat professionals.
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