New deaths in Samoa measles tragedy

Laverne Higgins
December 2, 2019

The number of suspected cases of measles on the Pacific island of Samoa has more than doubled over the past week to 3,530, and deaths related to the outbreak rose to 48 from 20 a week ago, the country's Ministry of Health said Sunday.

Infection rates and deaths are still, however, climbing quickly with five fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to government data, prompting emergency restrictions on public gatherings and travel leading up to Christmas. It's the sixth day the death toll has risen, with children under the age of four making up nearly all but five of the dead.

In all, 53 people have died since late October.

Samoa declared an emergency last month and mandated that all 200,000 people living on the island nation get vaccinated.

In just over two weeks, the official death toll has jumped more than ten-fold to 53 on Monday, the Samoan government said.

A Stuff report in Samoa states that 19 critically ill children have been admitted to hospital in the past day, along with two pregnant women.

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Neighboring New Zealand and a number of other countries and organizations, including the United Nations agency UNICEF, have delivered thousands of vaccines, medical supplies and have sent medical personnel to help with the outbreak.

While New Zealand and Australian aid is hitting the ground, the nature of the disease's spread makes the arrival of vaccinations something of a damage control exercise.

Figures from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF indicate fewer than 30% of Samoan infants were immunised previous year.

A total of 32,743 vaccinations were completed before the Mass Vaccination Campaign.Since November 20, when the vaccination strategy was implemented the Ministry has vaccinated 58,150 people, of that 43,529 were vaccinated in Upolu and 14,621 in Savaii.

The World Health Organisation has set a target of wiping out measles from most of the world by next year.

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