"just because we used to do it in the past doesn't mean we should do it today"
From an article from 1 Nov 2017 by news.com.au of the headline:
Plague is spreading because relatives are digging up their dead and dancing with the corpses
PEOPLE are digging up the remains of their loved ones and dancing with them as part of an ancient ritual that’s helping the plague spread.
Two women sit on the ground and hold the body of one of their ancestors as they take part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana in the village of Ambohijafy, a few kilometres from Antananarivo, on in Madagascar on September 23. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
RELATIVES dancing with the corpses of their loved ones are helping to spread the plague, officials have warned.
Madagascans have been told to stop the traditional practice of Famadihana, which sees locals dig up deceased relatives and dance with them before they are reburied, The Sun reports.
It is feared the ceremony has helped spread an outbreak of pneumonic plague that has left more than 120 dead on the African island.
Travellers have been warned about the spread of the killer plague, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urging Australians to speak to their doctor before travelling to Madagascar. It also warns the plague outbreak is restricting people from accessing the Seychelles from Madagascar.
People carry a body wrapped in a sheet as they take part in the Famadihana in the village of Ambohijafy, a few kilometres from Antananarivo, in Madagascar on September 23. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
But the ancient practice of Famadihana, which has been translated to the “turning of the bones”, is creating fresh concerns in Madagascar.
The country’s health chief Willy Randriamarotia said: “If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then interred in a tomb that is subsequently opened for a Famadihana, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body.”
The tradition has been banned since the plague outbreak began, but it is feared ceremonies have taken place regardless.
Some locals are openly dismissing the advice.
“I have participated in as least 15 Famadihana ceremonies and I’ve never caught the plague,” one person said.
Isabel Malala Razafindrakoto carries the wrapped body of her son, who died aged just three years old. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
The latest warning came as British aid workers said the epidemic would get worse before it got better.
“The epidemic is ahead of us, we have not yet reached the peak,” Olivier Le Guillou of Action Against Hunger said.
As many as 50 aid workers are believed to have been among the 1200 people infected with the more dangerous airborne pneumonic strain of the disease.
People leave the bodies of their ancestors on a straw carpet during the ritual. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
Warnings have been issued for nine countries surrounding Madagascar amid fears the disease could spread via sea trade and flight routes.
Those countries are Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros.
The medieval disease notoriously wiped out one third of Europe’s population in the 13th and 14th centuries in one of the most devastating pandemics in human history known as the Black Death.
During the Famadihana, which can be translated as “turning of the bones”, several crypts are opened and people take the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts and rewrap them in fresh cloth, then dance with the corpses in their arms at the pace of traditional Malagasy music. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
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,” Dr Chopra said.
“We don’t want to have a situation where the disease spreads so fast it sort of gets out of control.”
The Famadihana is a pillar in the Malagasy ancestor's worship and is celebrated each three, five or seven years. Picture: AFP/RIJASOLOSource:AFP
WHAT IS THE PLAGUE?
Plague is an infectious disease caused by bacteria usually found in small mammals and their fleas.
It has an extremely high fatality rate and is very infectious, although it can be treated by antibiotics if it’s caught early.
There are three forms of plague infection: pneumonic plague, septicaemic plague and bubonic plague, the most common form.
Bubonic plague was known as the Black Death in medieval Europe, where an outbreak brought entire civilisations to their knees and decimated the world’s population.
Black Death is spread through the bite of infected fleas, whereas pneumonic plague, the most contagious form, develops after a bubonic infection.
The plague warning has spread to 10 countries.Source:Supplied
Pneumonic infections can then be spread through the air, while septicaemic plague occurs when infection spreads through the bloodstream.
The three different types of plague all refer to different ways the disease can be spread.
In bubonic infections, plague-causing bacteria can be transmitted between animals and fleas, with infected fleas then passing the disease on to people through bites.
Infected people may then develop pneumonic plague once their bubonic infection becomes advanced.
Lung-based pneumonic plague can then sometimes be transmitted through the air between sufferers.
Following a pneumonic or bubonic infection, people can then develop septicaemic plague, which occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream.
The World Health Organisation describes plague symptoms as “flu like”, with one to seven days between incubation and the symptoms emerging.
Sufferers are likely to have painful lymph nodes, chills, fever, headaches, weakness and fatigue.
In bubonic sufferers, these inflamed lymph nodes may end up turning into pus-filled open sores.
Bubonic plague is fatal in 30 to 60 per cent of cases, while the pneumonic kind is always fatal, if left untreated.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.