Traditional ceremonies in Madagascar where families re-wrap the remains of dead relatives pose a serious risk of plague contamination. Since August, the disease has infected more than 1,100 people, with 124 deaths.

People sit on the ground and hold the bodies of their ancestors wrapped in sheets and straw carpets as they take part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana in the village of Ambohijafy, a few kilometres from Antananarivo, Madagascar on September 23, 2017.
People sit on the ground and hold the bodies of their ancestors wrapped in sheets and straw carpets as they take part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana in the village of Ambohijafy, a few kilometres from Antananarivo, Madagascar on September 23, 2017. (AFP)

In Madagascar, ceremonies in which families exhume the remains of dead relatives, re-wrap them in fresh cloth and dance with the corpses are a sacred ritual.

But an outbreak of plague sweeping the Indian Ocean island nation has prompted warnings that the macabre spectacle, known as the turning of the bones or body turning, presents a serious risk of contamination.

"If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then put in a tomb that is subsequently opened for this ceremony, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body," said Willy Randriamarotia, the health ministry chief of staff.

Since August, the disease has infected more than 1,100 people, resulting in 124 deaths. 

TRT World’s Caitlin McGee reports.

Source: TRT World