Madagascans digging up relatives who died from Black Death and dancing with corpses risk spreading the plague

Nick Reilly
It’s all part of a traditional ceremony (Picture: AFP

People living in Madagascar have been warned that they risk spreading the plague after dancing with the corpses of their loved ones who have died from the Black Death.

Locals on the African island have ordered to stop the practice of Famadihana, which involves them digging up the bodies of deceased relatives and dancing with them before they are reburied.

It is feared that the ceremony has been responsible for sparking an outbreak of pneumonic plague that has killed more than 120 people on the island.

Willy Randriamarotia, the country’s health chief, told The Sun: “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.”

Dead bodies are dug from their graves (Picture: AFP)
The pneumonic plague has blighted the island (Picture: AFP)

The bizarre tradition has been banned since the outbreak first began, but it is believed that the traditional ceremony is still continuing.

At present, more than 1,200 people have been infected with the pneumonic strain of the disease after it became airborne.

Despite being largely non-existent in the Western world, Madagascar has experienced several plague outbreaks in recent years – with the World Health Organisation describing the “flu like symptoms” of the disease.

Madagascans have been warned against digging up dead bodies (Picture: AFP)

Sufferers are likely to have painful lymph nodes and a fever, with the lymph nodes potentially turning into pus-filled open sores in cases of bubonic plague.


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Bubonic Plague was the strain that spread across Europe in the 14th century, with modern estimates claiming that it took the lives of over three million people in England.