Kenya is among nine other countries that have been put on alert after a deadly outbreak of airborne plague left more than 1300 cases being reported in Madagascar. World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed two thirds of those are suspected to be pneumonic – described as the ‘deadliest and most rapid form of plague’.

The outbreak is considered a much bigger threat to the region than in previous years because it has taken on its pneumonic form – meaning it is airborne and spread by sneezing and coughing. Pneumonic can spread through coughing and can kill within 24 hours. The lethal form currently spreading is different to the bubonic strain which was behind history’s Black Death. The deadly disease is caused by the same bacteria that wiped out at least 50 million people in Europe in the 1300s. Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Comoros and Mauritius are the five other countries to have received the heightened alert. The outbreak is moving quickly, with several British holiday hot spots now deemed at risk of the epidemic spreading, including Seychelles, South Africa and La Reunion. It has been reported that 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. “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,” a WHO official said.

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