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Samoa measles epidemic worsens with 24 children now dead

In this November 2019, image from video, a child gets vaccinated at a health clinic in Apia, Samoa. Samoa closed all its schools on Monday, Nov.18, 2019, banned children from public gatherings and mandated that everybody get vaccinated after declaring an emergency due to a measles outbreak. For the past three weeks, the Pacific island nation of 200,000 people has been in the grip of a measles epidemic that has been exacerbated by low immunization rates.

In this November 2019, image from video, a child gets vaccinated at a health clinic in Apia, Samoa. Samoa closed all its schools on Monday, Nov.18, 2019, banned children from public gatherings and mandated that everybody get vaccinated after declaring an emergency due to a measles outbreak. For the past three weeks, the Pacific island nation of 200,000 people has been in the grip of a measles epidemic that has been exacerbated by low immunization rates.   | Photo Credit: AP

"We still have a big problem at hand,” Samoa’s Director General of Health Leausa Take Naseri said in a video statement.

Authorities said on Monday that a measles epidemic sweeping through Samoa continues to worsen with the death toll rising to 25, all but one of them young children.

"We still have a big problem at hand,” Samoa’s Director General of Health Leausa Take Naseri said in a video statement.

Samoa declared a state of emergency nine days ago, closing all its schools, banning children from public gatherings and mandating that everybody get vaccinated. Teams of people have been traveling the country administering thousands of vaccines.

The government also shut down a private clinic and is investigating how hundreds of vaccines were taken without authorization and then sold for a fee.

The median age of those who have died is 13 months, according to government figures. The deaths include 24 children under the age of 5, 11 of whom were infants under 12 months. The other person who died was in their 30s.

In all, 679 people have been admitted to Samoan hospitals with the disease, accounting for two-thirds of all recent hospital admissions. A majority have been discharged, with about 183 remaining in hospitals.

"These hospitals are not designed to deal with this,” Dr. Scott Wilson told Newshub in the capital, Apia. “The minute you get hospitals running at 200 to 300 percent capacity - I think it speaks for itself. It’s incredibly serious.”

Figures from the World Health Organization and UNICEF indicate that measles immunization rates among Samoan infants have fallen steeply from over 70% in 2013 to under 30% last year.

Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand have also reported outbreaks of measles but on a smaller scale than in Samoa. American Samoa, which has declared a public health emergency, is requiring that travelers from Samoa and Tonga prove they have been vaccinated or are immune from measles before being allowed into the U.S. territory.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 9:04:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/samoa-measles-epidemic-worsens-with-24-children-now-dead/article30074827.ece

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