ICRC, prison officials aim to quell plague outbreaks in Madagascar

In an effort to curb outbreaks of the plague among Madagascar's prison system, the International Committee of the Red Cross recently teamed with government officials to rid the country's prisons of rodents.

Efforts have been focused on Antanimora Prison in Antanavarivo, Madagascar, which houses approximately 3,000 prisoners. There has been an average of 500 annual cases of the plague reported in the country during the last four years.

"The chronic overcrowding and the unhygienic conditions in prisons can bring on new cases of the disease," Christoph Vogt, head of the ICRC delegation in Madagascar. "That's dangerous not only for the inmates but also for the population in general."

Madagascar has more reported cases of the plague than any other country in the world. Approximately 60 deaths were confirmed there from the plague in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.

"Rat control is essential for preventing the plague because rodents spread the bacillus to fleas that can then infect humans," Vogt said. "So the relatives of a detainee can pick up the disease on a visit to the prison. And a released detainee returning to his community without having been treated can also spread the disease."

Prison officials are working with the ICRC to distribute hygiene products to prisoners, spray the prison with insecticide and place rat traps around the prison.