Government shutdown in Samoa amid 'cruel' measles outbreak

Henrietta Strickland
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 today.

After causing devastation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine, among others, measles cases started appearing en masse earlier this year in the New Zealand city of Auckland, a hub for travel to and from small Pacific islands.

Schools and universities have been closed and most public gatherings banned on the island state of 200,000, located south of the equator and half way between Hawaii and New Zealand.

The government said more than 1,100 people had been admitted to hospital since the outbreak began.

The Samoa Observer reports all government branches, save for water and power utilities, will close as of Thursday, with workers deployed on vaccination efforts.

The latest figures out yesterday revealed the measles death toll had risen to 48, with four deaths occurring over the weekend.

The New Zealand government on Friday announced it had sent a third rotation of emergency medical staff, as well as nurse vaccinators, intensive cares specialists and Samoan-speaking medical professionals. A total of 191 people were hospitalized.

Other countries including Britain have also sent teams and supplies.

The outbreak has been exacerbated by Samoa's low immunisation rates, which the World Health Organisation blames on overseas-based anti-vaccine campaigners.

Ms Ardern said the natural curve of infection rates meant that "sometimes things can be worse before they are better".

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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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