Measles outbreak: Samoa declares state of emergency after 6 fatalities

Henrietta Brewer
November 20, 2019

Samoa declared a state of emergency this weekend, closing all schools and cracking down on public gatherings, after several deaths linked to a measles outbreak that has spread across the Pacific islands.

Meanwhile, Samoa's National Emergency Operation Centre said on Monday it had assumed responsibility for the measles epidemic and was managing an action plan for fighting the disease's spread.

Conjoint Professor David Durrheim at the University of Newcastle's School of Medicine and Public Health said Samoa has long had low levels of vaccination, dropping to as low as 41 per cent in 2008.

Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which usually causes a rash and fever, but can also cause blindness, brain damage and death.

Samoa has closed all colleges, kindergartens and the nation's exclusively college in a bid to halt the virus' unfold.

She said it was disappointing that people in New Zealand who were carrying the virus had travelled to Samoa, possibly sparking the outbreak.

Winston Peters, the foreign minister of New Zealand has announced on November 15 that his country would send 3000 vaccines and 12 nurses to Samoa to help with the outbreak.

The two are children under five from Samoa who arrived on the Lady Naomi on October 31.

University of Auckland immunologist Helen Petousis-Harris said even though measles was already widespread, the mass rollout of vaccinations could help limit the number of cases and reduce the death count.

"In Samoa, the proportion of people who are immune to measles is very, very low, one of the lowest in the world", she told AFP.

All schools were closed on Monday and anyone under the age of 18 was barred from taking part in any public gatherings or going to medical clinics, unless they were the patient.

Later research found that the problem was not the widely used vaccine, but the fact that the administering nurses prepared it incorrectly.

Neighbouring Tonga final week introduced authorities major colleges and kindergartens could be closed till later this month because the variety of measles instances within the kingdom approaches 200.

Fiji has reported four cases but says they are contained to a township west of the capital Suva.

Other reports by iNewsToday