Published: Mon, December 02, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Samoa in Christmas lockdown as measles deaths top 50

Samoa in Christmas lockdown as measles deaths top 50

Of the total deaths, 50 involved children under 15 years.

"The Samoan health system is under serious strain with growing numbers of people, many of whom are very young, needing complex care as a result of the measles outbreak", Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement Friday.

In just over two weeks, the official death toll has jumped more than ten-fold to 53 on Monday, the Samoan government said.

"We are still having church services but if it gets worse we will have to stop church altogether - and it's nearly Christmas". It's the sixth day the death toll has risen, with children under the age of four making up nearly all but five of the dead.

Measles cases are rising worldwide, even in wealthy nations such as Germany and the United States, as parents shun immunisation for philosophical or religious reasons, or fears, debunked by doctors, that such vaccines could cause autism.

There are now 183 measles cases who are in-patients at all health facilities.

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In all, 53 people have died in the outbreak since late October, including one adult and two older teenagers.

The country's immunisation programme was also temporarily suspended.

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 UN children's agency Unicef has given than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine and medical teams of Australia and New Zealand are supporting administer them.

Officials say the anti-vaccination message has resonated in Samoa because of a case past year when two babies died after receiving measles immunisation shots.

Measles, a highly contagious virus that spreads easily through coughing and sneezing, has been reported in other Pacific nations, including Tonga and Fiji, but there have been no reports of deaths in those countries, which have greater vaccination coverage.

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