06:26 GMT +324 November 2017
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    People carry a body wrapped in a sheet as they take part in a funerary tradition called the Famadihana in the village of Ambohijafy, a few kilometres from Antananarivo, on September 23, 2017

    Never Going to Dance Again: Madagascar Authorities Warn Not to Handle Corpses

    © AFP 2017/ RIJASOLO
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    When a deadly epidemic arrives, local traditions and rituals may do more harm than good.

    Madagascar's authorities have urged residents to abandon the Famadihana ritual, citing  concerns about a plague outbreak. The ritual, among other things, stipulates that relatives must perform ritual dances with their exhumed relatives.

    "'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,"  Willy Randriamarotia, Madagascar's health ministry chief of staff, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

    According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,000 cases of plague have been registered in Madagascar since August 2017. 300 of them were confirmed by laboratory tests, with the death toll already standing at 124 people. The disease has spread to 37 of the 114 regions of the island state.

    Famadihana is a ritual ceremony of honoring the dead, during which Malagasy people exhume their dear ones, wrap them in fresh cloth and dance with them before putting them back into grave.

    According to local beliefs, a person passes into another world only after his body completely decomposes, and until that time he needs to communicate with family and friends from time to time.

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    body, relatives, plague, authorities, residents, outbreak, Madagascar
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