After Ebola, which caused a worldwide scare but luckily (for the rest of the world well understood) got confined to Western Africa where three countries were ravaged with it, there could be another deadly virus on the loose.
Health chiefs in Madagascar are ever more desperately trying to contain a deadly outbreak of airborne plague in Africa that has prompted warnings in nine countries which have residents that are returning from the island nation.
More than 1,300 cases have now been reported in Madagascar as the nearby nations of Mozambique and South Africa have already been placed on high alert.
Two-thirds of those are suspected to be pneumonic - described as the "deadliest and most rapid form of plague", and it is suspected to be spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting already.
The disease is caused by the same bacteria that wiped out at least 50 million people in Europe in the 12th century, known back then as the ‘black plague’.
The African branch of the WHO states 93 people have lost their lives to the disease so far, which is lower than the 124 noted in official UN figures. According to local Madagascar reporters though, already 150 people passed away.
A WHO official said: "The risk of the disease spreading is high at a national level… because it is present in several towns and this is just the start of the outbreak."
The most worrying for officials who are looking to stop the rapid spreading of the disease, which has a 100 percent fatality rate if not treated, is the local ritual of ‘famadihana’, where corpses are dug up and paraded through the streets.
Mr. Willy Randriamarotia, Madagascar’s health ministry chief of staff, admitted: “If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then interred in a tomb that is subsequently opened for the ritual, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body.”