The World Health Organization is acting fast to contain a deadly outbreak of an ancient disease that’s already killed hundreds in just a couple of weeks.

The outbreak of the plague, also known as “black death,” has startled world health officials and forced them to issue travel warnings to at least nine countries as fears the deadly disease could spread rapidly across the plant continue to grow. According to the U.K. Sun, this particular outbreak is incredibly troubling since unlike the bubonic plague, the pneumonic plague is airborne and can be spread through coughing and sneezing.

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So far, at least 1,300 people have become infected with the medieval disease and 124 have died as a result. Although officials state that those numbers don’t include those still in the incubation period for the deadly illness.


Thus far, nine countries on the African continent have been affected by the sickness, with Madagascar being “ground zero,” if you will.

For those unaware, the plague wiped out over two-thirds of the European population when it first spread across the continent hundreds of years ago. The outbreak was the deadliest pandemic in human history, earning it the label “Black Death” as it indiscriminately killed men, women and children.

A prominent professor at the University of Texas has warned that the current outbreak has yet to peak, given that it originated in heavily populated areas and could spread by boat, air, and vehicle travel.

From the Sun:

Dr Ashok Chopra, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas, told The Sun Online the crisis in Madagascar had yet to peak.

He warned it was possible for the deadly plague to move further into the region given the regular flights going in and out of the country.

“If they 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 added: “Most of the cases in the past have been of the bubonic plague but if you look at this particular outbreak, 70 percent of the cases are pneumonic plague, which is the most deadly form of the disease.

“If the treatment is not given in a very short period of time these people will end up dying.”

Dr. Chopra also warned of the plague’s ability to spread “very rapidly,” noting that the number of cases in Madagascar have double in just a week’s time.

A press release from the W.H.O. regarding the outbreak stated:

“The risk of regional spread is moderate due to the occurrence of frequent travel by air and sea to neighbouring Indian Ocean islands and other southern and east African countries.”

“Nine countries and overseas territories have been identified as priority countries in the African region for plague preparedness and readiness by virtue of having trade and travel links to Madagascar.

“These countries and overseas territories include Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, La Réunion (France), Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania.”

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