Health officials have warned they are losing control of a deadly new strain of the “Black Death” plague after the disease has become airborne as is spreading at an “unstoppable rate.”
The outbreak started in Madagascar, but 9 nine surrounding countries have now issued “high alert” emergency warnings as the death rate skyrockets into the thousands.
The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) fears they are now no longer able to contain the epidemic which they say is far more advanced than the bubonic plague, which killed around 50 million in the 1300s.
The lethal new strain has been described by scientists as “deadliest and most rapid form of plague” ever recorded. Daily Mail reports: The deadly disease is caused by the same bacteria that wiped out at least 50 million people in Europe in the 1300s.
However, the lethal form currently spreading is different to the bubonic strain which was behind history’s Black Death.
Pneumonic can spread through coughing and can kill within 24 hours. The outbreak is moving quickly, with several British holiday hotspots now deemed at risk of the epidemic spreading, including Seychelles, South Africa, and La Reunion.
Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros, and Mauritius are the six other countries to have received the heightened alert. It has been reported as many as 50 aid workers are believed to have been among the people infected.
The African branch of the WHO states 93 people have lost their lives to the disease so far, lower than the 124 noted in official UN figures.
A WHO official said: ‘The risk of the disease spreading is high at national level… because it is present in several towns and this is just the start of the outbreak.’
the deadly new plague strain is spreading rapidly © press
The deadly new plague strain is spreading rapidly WHO admitted the outbreaks have centered in cities, including the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo – heightening the risk of it spreading.
Growing concerns Officials are growing concerned as around two-thirds of the cases are suspected to be the pneumonic plague, spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting.
It is more deadly than the bubonic variation of the disease which killed a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s before being largely wiped out.
Madagascar sees regular outbreaks of the disease, but this one has caused alarm due to how quickly it has spread and a high number of fatalities.
This outbreak is the first time the disease has affected the Indian Ocean island’s two biggest cities, Antananarivo and Toamasina, officials said.
Around 600 cases are reported each year on the island.
But this year’s outbreak is expected to dwarf previous ones as it has struck so early.
Drafting in help International agencies have so far sent more than one million doses of antibiotics to Madagascar.
Nearly 20,000 respiratory masks have also been donated. However, the WHO advises against travel or trade restrictions. It has previously asked for $5.5 million (£4.2m) to support the plague response.
Despite its guidance, Air Seychelles, one of Madagascar’s biggest airlines, stopped flying temporarily earlier in the month to try and curb the spread.
A Foreign Office spokesman previously said: ‘There is currently an outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague in Madagascar.
‘Outbreaks of plague tend to be seasonal and occur mainly during the rainy season, with around 500 cases reported annually.