#1: Could a Centuries-Old Ritual Increase the Spread of Plague in Madagascar?
Things may be looking up when it comes to the plague outbreak that has been ravaging Madagascar.
The latest External Situation Report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the number of new cases of pneumonic plague continues to decline in number in active areas throughout the country. However, speculation has risen that a centuries-old tradition may increase the risk of the outbreak spreading.
The tradition in question is called famadihana, and, according to Newsweek, it’s also referred to as “the turning of the bones” or “body turning.” In past coverage, CNN delved into the ritual, performed by the Merina tribe in Madagascar’s central highlands.
“In this sacred ritual, which occurs every 5 to 7 years, a number of deceased relatives are removed from an ancestral crypt,” according to CNN. “Living family members carefully peel the burial garments off the corpses and wrap them in fresh silk shrouds.” Then, those involved in the ritual dance with the corpses of their forebears, according to anthropologist Dr. Miora Mamphionona. At the end of the ritual, the bodies are placed back in their tombs and turned upside down.
“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, “chief of staff in Madagascar’s health ministry Willy Randriamarotia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Read more about the plague outbreak in Madagascar, here
To stay informed on the latest in infectious disease news and developments, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.