They risk infecting others as they flee back home – despite being riddled with the dangerous contagion.
A doctor at a plague hospital in the Madagascan capital of Antananarivo revealed the horrifying development yesterday.
This comes as fears grow that the outbreak could go global – leading to millions dying.
The Central Anti-Plague Hospital Ambohimindra is one of six hospitals that treat plague in the city with a population of 8.6m.
Madagascar’s plague outbreak has killed 165 people so far, infecting more than 2,000, making 2017 this hospital’s busiest year.
It’s a deadly pneumonic plague which can pass from person to person through coughing and kills within 24 hours.
But incredibly, Dr Marielle Zaramisy, the hospital’s chief of medicine, has revealed infected patients are fleeing from hospitals and denying themselves potentially life-saving treatment which could speed up the spread.
One patient who managed to get away made it all the way home before doctors forced him back into an ambulance.
And there have been numerous other attempts.
She told the Irish Times: “Some escaped because they’re afraid of needles. People here are not used to the hospital.”
Zaramisy said many of the infected did not believe they had the illness.
She continued: “It’s all about them not believing what they have despite having symptoms.”
Three people have died at the hospital so far from the plague.
There are guards at the doors to make sure patients don’t escape.
Zaramisy added: “This is the first time it’s an urban epidemic.”
Jean Benoit Manhes, the deputy representative of Unicef, said many infected people were not admitting themselves to hospital.
There are rumours among the population the outbreak is a government plot to get donations ahead of next year’s election.
Many also fear that going to hospital is a death sentence.
He said: “The problem of plague is not just a medical response.
“You can have hospitals but if people don’t come it isn’t enough.”
The World Health Organisation has said this epidemic is “different” to that seen before.
Nine countries are now on high alert amid fears the disease could go global.
It has been labelled the worst outbreak of the deadly virus “in more than 50 years” – but there are fears it could worsen if the disease mutates and becomes untreatable.
Even doctors have fallen ill.
The disease has been compared to the bubonic plague, the Black Death, of the 14th Century which killed around a third of the population of the world.
Antibiotic treatment of the disease is currently effective in fighting the disease in its early stages, helping to save thousands of lives.
But experts say there is a real risk it could become immune to antibiotics.