"If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then interred in a tomb that is subsequently opned for a famadihana, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body", Willy Randriamarotia, the chief of staff in Madagascar's health ministry, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP), an global news organization.
What exactly is the Black Death?
The most common form of the disease is usually the bubonic plague, which can not be transmitted from human to human.
"Septicaemic plague occurs when infection spreads through the bloodstream Septicaemic plague may result from flea bites and from direct contact with infective materials through cracks in the skin". However, in this outbreak the majority of victims, 67%, have been infected with the deadliest pneumonic form of the disease, which can be transmitted by respiratory droplets from coughing.
South Africa's trade and travel links with Madagascar are the reason for its addition to the list of countries on high alert, the World Health Organization said.
Plague is caused by a bacterium known as Yersinia Pestis usually affecting human beings and other animals including domestic animals such as cats and dogs. The lymph node then becomes inflamed, tense and painful, and is called a 'bubo.' At advanced stages of the infection the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into suppurating open sores.
Symptoms of the plague include sudden and severe fevers, body aches, vomiting and nausea.
Plague isn't exactly a rare thing in Madagascar, with hundreds of cases of the infection popping up on a yearly basis, but what makes this particular outbreak so devastating is that it's spread more rapidly and much farther than it typically does.
Being geometry deficient, the only thing that I, like most Americans, knew about Madagascar was that it is Africa adjacent (it is an island off the coast of Mozambique), and that it had an animated movie named for it.
The deadly plague has a high mortality rate with 30-100% of death within 72 hours if not treated.
They've also reportedly petitioned for $5.5 million dollars in additional aid.