Deadly plague strikes Africa, Several dead

The Black death has broken out in Africa along the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Several people have been killed and dozens of others have been exposed to the virus. The Black death – otherwise known as the bubonic plague – once scourged Europe during the 14th century. Some 30 to 60 percent of the World’s population is thought to have been killed by the vicious disease, which may have been transferred from China by fleas clinging to black rats.

The widespread nature of the disease means most people have been protected by ancient immunity, but new strains still arise sometimes in African countries. Here, little access to antibiotics and comprehensive healthcare has meant the disease is still responsible for deaths. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), several people have died from an outbreak of pneumonic plague – a strain of the ancient disease.

At least five deaths have been recorded by health officials, with dozens of people thought to have come in contact with the virus.

Health officials in Uganda have been praised for their swift response, and WHO is now working with them to tackle further developing cases.

While deaths from the plague have been reported only recently, cases of the pneumonic plague have been reported earlier this month from March 5.
Some patients who caught the disease over the border in the DRC travelled to Uganda for treatment.

One 35-year-old woman was taken to Uganda for treatment after her own daughter was killed by the disease.

Some 55 other people - among them 11 health workers - who were present at the woman’s funeral have been identified as high-risk for the plague.

The woman’s 23-year-old cousin who also reported symptoms of the disease is now recovering in hospital.

While the current outbreak is proving deadly, officials with the World Health Organisation have said it is no cause for concern.

Felix Ochom, an epidemiologist with WHO, said the organisation has the current outbreak under control.

Talking to Al Jazeera, he said: "From the Ugandan side, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the district health authorities in Zombo district.

"It is treatable and the suspected case we identified in Zombo district is undergoing treatment and improving quite steadily."

According to officials, the pneumonic plague is endemic in Madagascar and rarely strays out of the area.

Cases of the plague break out every year in the African country, especially in the period from September to April, which officials call “epidemic season”.

The current outbreak remains concerning for those in the immediate area, as is developing in heavily populated regions.

The WHO has not advised any travel or trade restrictions in response.

Cases in the western World are much more uncommon, but do crop up on rare occasion.

One notable case in 2017 saw a dog in the US state of Colorado contract the illness and come into contact with up to 100 people.

The three-year-old dog was thought to have contracted the disease from sniffing a dead prairie dog - a rodent known to carry the bacteria which causes the disease.

In total 116 people were thought to have been exposed to the pneumonic plague, but thankfully no further cases of the disease developed.