4 Nov 2019

Measles epidemic: Samoa's govt mobilises resources

3:39 pm on 4 November 2019

Samoa's Ministry of Health is consolidating its resources to better deal with the current measles epidemic, following three deaths that are highly suspected to be from measles.

Director General of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri (middle) with two senior doctors involved in the preparations and awareness of measles in Samoa.

Director General of Health Leausa Dr Take Naseri (middle) with two senior doctors involved in the preparations and awareness of measles in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Tipi Autagavaia

Samoa's government declared a measles epidemic in mid-October.

Two young children and a man, 37, have died, after clinical signs indicated they had measles.

Ministry chief executive Leausa Dr Take Naseri said a number of clinics had been closed to focus resources around the epidemic.

"We have modified our operations. We have closed down most of our general outpatient clinics so that we can mobilise - so staff can focus more on the alarming rates of the public that is coming in."

He was concerned about the outbreak and parents were encouraged to get their children protected via vaccination, Leausa said.

"They have to get the children vaccinated. We have to improve our coverage, get everybody vaccinated," he said.

"If you are unsure, it is better to get vaccinated, especially the children. Fifty [years old] and up, I know most of the people, that was the time when the coverage of vaccinations in Samoa was very good."

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Photo: WHO

Coverage had been sitting at just over 30 percent after the earlier suspension of the vaccination programme due to the deaths of two babies after they were incorrectly administered vaccines last year.

Leausa said even though countries like New Zealand had comparatively high coverage, it was still taking them four to five months to get control of the disease.

New Zealand had offered a lot of assistance and Samoa had notified them of their priority needs, he said.

Airport surveillance continues

Meanwhile, staff at Faleolo International Airport are actively observing new arrivals for signs of measles infection as the country continues to grapple with the outbreak.

All arriving passengers must declare any sickness on customs forms, and staff are looking for visitors showing any signs of illness.

There are large warning signs at immigration informing tourists about the outbreak, giving signs and symptoms of the illness and advising who to contact if unwell.

Samoa's Tourism Authority said hotel operators had been briefed on measles and knew how to contact help for tourists if needed.

Several customs staff at the airport are wearing paper face masks as they scan luggage and greet travellers arriving in Samoa.

Late last week, there were 34 children in Apia's hospital with measles and five of them were in a critical condition.

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