Plague Threat Traced to African Funeral Ritual

‘Dance with the dead’ lets deadly bacteria out of the grave 

(Headline Health) As global health agencies put out ever more urgent warnings about the spread of a pneumonic plague epidemic that originated in Madagascar, reports from the island nation may have pinpointed the source of epidemic: an African funeral ritual known as Famadihana.

Famadihana ‘dance with the dead’ ritual in Madagascar. PHOTO: Hery Zo Rakotondramanana

While head hunting, cannibalism, and other macabre African traditions may have faded into history, others such as female genital mutilation (FGM) continue. Now we’re learning about another African folk ritual that refuses to die – Famadihana, or the ‘dance with the dead’.

BBC News brought the ghoulish ritual to the world’s attention in 2008:

“To outsiders, dancing with the corpse of a dead loved one, years after their demise, might seem ghoulish. But to the people of Madagascar, it is a ritual of respect for their departed ancestors.

“The practice, which involves exhuming dead relatives, rewrapping them in fresh grave clothes and dancing with them around the tomb, can seem almost impossibly strange.

“But for the Malagasy, for whom ancestral worship remains important, it is an essential way of maintaining ties with the dead.”

Ancient rituals and superstitions continue to threaten and victimize many people beyond those who actually believe in them.

There are reports of FGM being done in certain communities in the United States, and now pneumonic plague is suspected of being just a 20-hour plane ride from New York.

Below we bring readers the latest news on the spreading threat of the pneumonic plague.

Thousands infected, nine countries added to alert, international travel affected

Locals have blamed the outbreak on villagers digging up their ancestors for a ritual known as Famadihana … 

(Henry Holloway, Daily Star) PLAGUE is continuing to spread in the “worst outbreak” in 50 years – but scientists fear the worst is yet to come as it could go global.

Cases have increased by 8% in just a week with nearly 2,000 people infected by the deadly airborne strain.

Some 143 people have now been killed by the “medieval disease” in Madagascar.

Nine countries are now on high alert and have been told to brace for the plague.

PREVIOUSLY: Plague Threat Confirmed in Kenya; Is USA Next?

The airborne pneumonic plague can be spread by coughing, sneezing and spitting.

It can kill in just 24 hours and is very different from the bubonic plague – which triggered the medieval outbreak known as the “black death”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the current outbreak has lasted for six months.

Emergency disease outbreak expert Professor Paul Hunter revealed fears the plague could reach Africa.

He told MailOnline: “If we don’t carry on doing stuff here, at one point something will happen and it will get out of hand control cause huge devastation all around the world.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT DAILY STAR. Also of interest: Plague Hitches Ride with Globetrotting Tourist, Escapes Madagascar