Johannesburg - Authorities in Madagascar are struggling to contain an outbreak of plague that has killed two-dozen people in recent weeks and has prompted a ban on large public gatherings in the capital to curb the disease's spread. The dead include a basketball coach from the Seychelles who was participating in a tournament in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo. Five people have died of plague in the capital, reported L'Express de Madagascar, a daily newspaper. The government has begun a campaign to disinfect school classrooms in the city, compelling students to stay at home in the coming days. Many people have bought surgical masks and other medical supplies in large quantities, raising concerns about a shortage of medicine. "Once everybody hears that this is a major thing, everyone runs out and buys everything at the pharmacy," said Joshua Poole, the Madagascar representative for Catholic Relief Services, an aid group based in Baltimore, Maryland. "Access to those essential items is a challenge." Poole said the death of the basketball coach from the Seychelles had attracted more international attention to this year's outbreak of plague, which is endemic to Madagascar.