Samoa measles outbreak: More children dead as death toll hits 42

Henrietta Strickland
November 30, 2019

More countries have sent medical personnel and supplies to Samoa to fight a measles outbreak that led the Pacific Island to declare a state of emergency this month.

November 29 - A total of 3149 measles cases reported, 42 resulting in death. World Health Organization said another five people had died Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 37.

Measles is caused by a highly contagious virus that spreads easily through coughing and sneezing.

In a country of just 200,000 people, 1601 children under five have caught measles, putting intolerable strain on the country's health system.

But in the wake of last year's MMR vaccine crisis, which saw vaccinations halted after two babies died after having the jab, herd immunity in the country has plummeted.

The number of people infected with the disease continues to grow, with at least 16 deaths confirmed and 1,174 cases recorded to date.

Kate O'Brien, director of the World Well being Organisation's (WHO) immunisation division, stated the anti-vax motion has "had a really outstanding affect on the immunisation programme" in Samoa.

"Samoan health workers have been grappling with the outbreak for a number of weeks".

"This meant there was a long delay before the vaccination programme started up again and fear around vaccinations quickly spread among the public", Petousis-Harris said.

Almost 200 people are now hospitalised with measles, including 20 critically ill children in intensive care.

Immunologist and vaccine specialist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said this was "absolutely devastating" and highlighted just how important it was for people in Samoa get vaccinated as soon as possible.

On Friday, Kiwi Foreign Minister Winston Peters a announced a fresh round of support, including 100,000 vaccines and an oxygen production machine to "help meet unprecedented demand".

A third team of nurses was on standby to leave mid-December if needed.

Although the Measles outbreak first swept off the lives of infants and toddlers under the age of 4 years, later on, it claimed the lives of people ranging between 10 and 19 years. Of those dead, 38 are children under four-years-old.

And the United Nations health agency has been sounding the alarm over vaccination rates around the globe as the anti-vaccine movement gains steam, driven mainly by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella to a risk of autism in children.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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