24 children are dead in Samoa from measles epidemic

A measles epidemic sweeping through Samoa is worsening with 25 people dying and all but one are children.

Samoa’s Director of General Health, Leausa Take Naseri, said in a video statement that they are continuing to have big problem with the disease.

Just within a day there were 140 new cases of people getting the virus and thus far 2,200 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the outbreak in October. Right now, Naseri says there are at least 20 children who are critically ill with the measles who are in intensive care units in hospitals.

Nine days ago, Samoa declared a state of emergency and closed all schools, banned all children from public gatherings and ordered everyone to get a measles vaccination. Several teams of people have been going throughout the country giving thousands of vaccines the populace.

Under investigation is a clinic that the government shut down where without authorization, hundreds of vaccines were taken and then were sold for a fee.

So far the average age for children who have died from the measles is 13 months according to government records. The 24 children who died are all under the age of 5 and 11 of those are infants younger than a year. The adult who died from the measles was in their 30s.

Samoan hospitals have admitted, so far, 679 people with the measles which they say accounts for two-thirds al all hospital admissions recently. Most of them have been discharged, with approximately 183 who continue to remain in the hospitals.

Dr. Scott Wilson told the media outlet Newshub in Apia, Samoa’s capitol, that the hospitals are running at 200 to 300% capacity and are not designed to deal with an epidemic of this magnitude. Wilson says the situation is very serious.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, figures show that immunization levels among Samoan infants have gone down drastically from over 70% receiving the measles vaccine in 2013 to 30% in 2018.

According to a vaccine expert at New Zealand’s University of Auckland, Helen Petousis-Harris, the Samoan government stopped its immunization program for several months in 2018 when two infants died from a medical accident which involved a vaccine.

Smaller scales of outbreaks of the measles have been report by Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. In American Samoa where a public health emergency has been declared, travelers are required to show proof that they have been vaccinated or are immune to the measles before thy are allowed into the US territory.