Peter Beaumont
The Guardian
December 11, 2013

Right hand of a plague patient displaying acral gangrene. Gangrene is one of the manifestations of plague.
Right hand of a plague patient displaying acral gangrene. Gangrene is one of the manifestations of plague.

Once feared as the Black Death – the rodent-born disease that wiped out a third of the world’s population in the Middle Ages – bubonic plague has killed 20 villagers in Madagascar in one of the worst outbreaks globally in recent years, health experts have confirmed.

The confirmation that bubonic plague was responsible for the deaths last week near the north-western town of Mandritsara follows a warning in October from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that the island nation was at risk of a plague epidemic.

The Pasteur Institute of Madagascar revealed on Tuesday that tests taken from bodies in the village last week showed that they had died of the bubonic plague. The institute added it was concerned the disease could spread to towns and cities where living standards have declined since a coup in 2009.

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