The deadly airborne plague spreading rapidly across Madagascar is now at 'crisis' point as cases have rocketed by 37 per cent in just five days, official figures reveal.
The outbreak, the 'worst in 50 years', is being fueled by a strain more lethal than the one which usually strikes the country off the coast of Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) now states there are 1,801 suspected cases - significantly higher than the 1,309 it reported last Thursday. Academics have revealed such a jump in cases over the period of five days is concerning and have predicted it could get worse. The most recent statistics show there have been 127 deaths.
Professor Robin May, an infectious diseases expert at Birmingham University, told MailOnline that 'whichever way you look' at the outbreak, it’s 'concerning definitely'.
Analysis of figures by MailOnline show the epidemic could strike a further 20,000 people in just a matter of weeks, if current trends continue. It could be made worse by crowds gathering for an annual celebration to honour the dead earlier this week.
The 'truly unprecedented' outbreak has prompted warnings in nine nearby countries - South Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros and Mauritius.
Two thirds of this year's cases have been caused by the airborne pneumonic plague and means it is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting. It is different to the traditional bubonic form that strikes the country each year.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Professor Johnjoe McFadden, an expert in molecular genetics at the University of Surrey, said: 'It’s a crisis at the moment and we don’t know how bad it’s going to get.'
Professor Jimmy Whitworth, an international public health scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told MailOnline earlier today: 'This outbreak though is the worst for 50 years or more.' (Read More)