Thirty-three people in Madagascar have died of plague, with more than 200 infected with the disease.

The Ministry of Health said this on Thursday.

While the ministry did not break down the deaths, they said that out of those infected, the vast majority had contracted the more serious pneumonic form of plague.

Manitra Rakotoarivony, of the ministry, said 155 cases have been confirmed as pneumonic.

While known to many as an illness from the Middle Ages that devastated Europe, the plague in its bubonic form is still endemic to some countries including Madagascar, which lies off Africa’s south-east coast.

About 400 cases of plague are reported in Madagascar every year, most of them bubonic, which is transmitted by fleas.

The much rarer pneumonic strain of the disease which spread person to person is fatal unless treated within 24 hours.

The ministry also confirmed that a basketball coach from the Seychelles who had been visiting Madagascar had died from the plague.

The island’s government at the weekend said that it was banning large public gatherings in an effort to stop the disease from spreading.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the latest outbreak is unusual contrary to past outbreaks, this one is affecting large urban areas, which increases the risk of transmission.

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