Dancing With the Plague

Could one of the most feared diseases in history make a comeback?

One of the most feared diseases in history is back: the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the pneumonic, septicemic and bubonic plagues. This bacteria caused the Black Death, which killed at least a third of Europe’s population between 1347 and 1353. And that was just one of its outbreaks.

Now it is spreading in Madagascar.

Yersinia pestis is usually found on small rodents and fleas. Although many believe the plague was eradicated, it still exists today. Better hygiene and treatments have decreased the impact, but the bacteria are still around.

Madagascar usually sees around 400 cases of the plague each year, but over 2,000 cases have been reported since August. One hundred seventy-one people have died, according to official figures.

The island usually suffers a “plague season” from September to April, when most cases are reported. The early outbreak in August is cause for concern, because most of its cases are a strain that spreads through coughing as opposed to fleas.

Why is this spreading? The Madagascan tradition of Famadihana, or “the turning of the bones,” is probably to blame. The ancestral tradition occurs every five to seven years. Deceased family members are dug up from their crypts and have their garments peeled off. Family members then rewrap the deceased in fresh shrouds. People follow that by drinking, celebrating and dancing.

“We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose,” anthropologist Dr. Miora Mamphionona told cnn in March. But bacteria do not die with the person; it long remains on corpses, which can then spread in these rituals.

Although the plague does not have the same impact as it did in the 14th century, it still can do a lot of damage—especially if it reaches mainland Africa, where it would be hard to control. Ten countries have been placed on high-risk alert. The World Health Organization has released $1.5 million to fight it and has sent over a million doses of antibiotics.

These antibiotics can treat the plague in its early stages, but not everyone has access to treatment. And detecting it early can be difficult, so the plague easily spreads.

This plague is not yet a crisis, but it certainly has the potential to explode into one.

Will it? It is certainly possible. When describing the world conditions leading up to the time of the end, Jesus Christ told His disciples that “there shall be famines, and pestilences” (Matthew 24:7).

We explained these Bible prophecies of the end time in “Is Bird Flu Really a Threat?” Warnings of diseases spread by fleas and rats “falls in line with the warnings in Revelation 6 about the pale horse of the apocalypse, who kills, in part, using the ‘beasts of the earth’ (verse 8),” we wrote. The article continued:

We can see the dangers approaching the nations of the world. When this pale horse rides, there will be plagues and diseases like sars and bird flu. While we are not saying H5N1 will be the ultimate fulfillment of the pale horse of the apocalypse, we can say without hesitation and with the full backing of the Bible that disease pandemics are coming. How serious are these end-time curses? “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

When we look at 40 million deaths as a result of the Spanish flu pandemic, we should see how helpless mankind really is; the world is not prepared for an outbreak of H5N1. Men look at anti-viral drugs, vaccines, and the advances of modern medicine as saviors, but the reality is that we are so helpless, there would be no flesh left on the Earth without God’s intervention.

Believe it or not, though, this is a message of hope—the only message of hope anyone can offer. If we seek God “while he may be found,” He will protect us from disease, from terrorism—from every modern threat there is (Isaiah 55:6). Today, He is giving us a warning that we heed by repenting. But do you know what repentance is?

In Volume 1 of his autobiography, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “I was never converted until I was brought to the place where I realized my own nothingness, and God’s all-encompassing greatness—until I felt completely whipped, defeated. When I came to consider myself as a worthless burned-out ‘hunk of human junk’ not even worth throwing on the junk-pile of human derelicts, truly remorseful for having imagined I was a ‘somebody’—completely and totally and bitterly sorry for the direction I had traveled and the things I had done—really and truly repentant ….”

That type of repentance will bring God into your life! God tells us in Psalm 91 that if He is our refuge and our fortress, we will not need to fear terrorism or pestilence; He can protect us from global flu pandemics as well: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, And ten thousand at thy right hand; But it shall not come nigh thee” (Psalm 91:7).

Request our free booklet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for more understanding about the Bible’s prophecies of coming plagues.