Madagascar Plague Black Death
A man sprays disinfectant in a Madagascar market. Getty Images

Malawi has become the tenth country in Africa to be put on high alert over fears the pneumonic plague could spread there from Madagascar, where at least 140 people have been killed by the devastating disease.

South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, La Reunion and Mayotte, Mauritius and Comoros are the other nine nations preparing for the spread of the disease from the east African island.

The plague was responsible for the Black Death: one of history's most devastating pandemics, which wiped out an estimated 75 to 200 million people across Medieval Europe in the 1300s.

Madagascar's outbreak started in August and has spread to more than 2,000 people in the region.

Malawi's health secretary Dr Dan Namarika said the country was working with Mozambique to prepare for the disease reaching its borders. 'We have infection prevention materials ready and groups and teams ready to be activated if there is a trigger."

In a statement released about the Outbreak in early November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that its control measures will be in place until at least April 2018, as August to April is when cases of the plague are at their highest.

WHO has pledged £3.8m to combat the disease's spread, which will go towards getting additional medical personnel to the area, fuel for local ambulances and the disinfection of buildings where treatment is taking place.

"People infected with plague usually develop 'flu-like' symptoms after an incubation period of 3-7 days," reads a WHO description of the disease. "Typical symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, chills, head and body-aches and weakness, vomiting and nausea."

The strain afflicting Madagascar is easily treated with antibiotics, but the speed at which the plague has spread is still alarming.

A representative for WHO, Tarik Jasarevic, told The Independent that the number of cases has slowed down. "As of 8 November there were only 16 people hospitalised with plague, compared with 106 on 29 October," he said.

"This trend is encouraging, and shows that the quick steps taken to support the Malagasy Government to contain the outbreak have been effective. However, we must remain vigilant and cannot rule out the possibility of future flare-ups."