68 Measles-Related Fatalities Confirmed in Samoa

Samoa measles vaccination program has reached 90 percent of the population
samoan bus parked in front of a church

The Samoa Ministry of Health (MOH) has now confirmed 68 measles-related fatalities since the outbreak began during October 2019.

Samoa’s MOH published an updated Tweet on December 8, 2019, saying there were 121 additional measles cases confirmed in the last 24 hours.

This new data increases the total number of measles cases reported by the Independent State of Samoa to 4,581 during this outbreak.

To alert the global community, Samoa’s government declared a state of emergency on November 15th. Under this national order, various restrictions have been implemented including limitations on inter-island travel for all individuals below 19 years of age; temporary closure of schools, and strongly advising children not to attend public gatherings or attending any medical facility, unless they require medical attention.

And, un-immunized pregnant women are further restricted from attending their place of employment.

The good news is Samoa’s MOH is reporting about 90 percent of both Upolu and Savaii islands has now been vaccinated against the measles virus during the ‘mass immunization campaign’ that launched on November 20th.

Measles vaccinations continue to be available at all health facilities, including TTM Hospital Motootua and MTII Hospital Tuasivi.

Moreover, Samoa’s MOH says ‘about 22,315 non-pregnant women, between the ages of 20-35, have been vaccinated since October 2019.

To combat this outbreak, the international community has offered various resources, such as UNICEF.

UNICEF delivered 6 specially designed refrigerators and 3 emergency trolleys to the Samoa MOH last week, to ensure the ‘cold chain storage’ is maintained and vaccines are effective when administered.

Samoa has a population of 190,000 residents on 2 islands, Savai'i and Upolu. Samoa is located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Pacific Ocean.

American Samoa is a separate, unincorporated territory of the United States, located southeast of Samoa.

On December 6th, the government of American Samoa reported 9 measles cases and declared a state of emergency, which will lead to the closure of public schools and a ban on gatherings in parks. According to the Straits Times reporting, a new shipment of measles vaccines will arrive on December 9, 2019.

Previously, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included Samoa in its June 2019 Level 1 Travel Alert regarding the ongoing spreading of the measles virus around the world. The CDC suggests the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR II) vaccine for all visitors to Samoa. The MMR-II vaccine is a live virus vaccine, containing weakened forms of these viruses.

Additionally, the CDC updated its travel vaccination suggestions when visiting Samoa on August 2, 2019, to include the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, and the annual influenza vaccinations.

The CDC also suggests Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid vaccinations for certain Samoa visitors.

Separately, UK health authorities classified Samoa as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

For information and advice about the risks associated with the Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. And, the UK says ‘in the event of a medical emergency, evacuation to Australia, New Zealand or Hawaii is likely to be the only option for treatment.’

Measles is a very contagious virus that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.

An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing he/she has the disease—from 4 days before developing the measles rash through 4 days afterward.

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Many countries around the world are experiencing measles outbreaks, with the latest data indicating an overall 10 percent increase this year.

As of November 5, 2019, there have been 440,263 confirmed cases reported by 187 Member States to World Health Organization (WHO). In the WHO's European region, the country of Ukraine has reported the most measles cases during 2019, with 56,802.

Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases, says the WHO.

Measles vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations