7 Nov 2019

Samoa measles epidemic: Cases continue to rise

3:20 pm on 7 November 2019

Samoa's Ministry of Health is looking into the death of a two-year-old boy, as the number of suspected measles cases in the country climbs.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

There are now 513 suspected cases of measles with results still pending from an Australian laboratory regarding the recent deaths of two infants and an adult male, who showed clinical signs of the disease.

Health authorities say the latest death, of the two-year-old, is being investigated to see if it was measles-related, but the Samoa Observer has reported the child's mother and sister have been infected with measles.

A measles epidemic was declared in Samoa last month, after seven confirmed cases with the source linked to the outbreak in New Zealand.

Samoa's director of health, Leausa Dr Take Naseri, said it was unfair to blame anyone for the spread of measles.

"Whatever happened in New Zealand, then there will be a lot of opinions on that. And we know that with every outbreak, particularly this particular virus, it's... one of the most contagious and communicable viruses."

The virulence of measles had been demonstrated by how the virus spread through international controls to reach Samoa from New Zealand, Dr Naseri said.

Posters warning about measles in Samoa.

Posters warning about measles in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

Meanwhile, Auckland health authorities have confirmed a case of measles in a New Zealand resident who has returned home from Samoa.

The departed Apia on Samoa Airways Flight OL731 on Saturday morning before landing in Auckland.

The passenger went into isolation shortly after arriving in New Zealand.

Anyone who was on the same flight, or in the airports' departure or arrival areas around the same time as the case, has been warned to watch out for measles symptoms, such as a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes.

Auckland has been battling a measles outbreak for months, with over 1500 cases confirmed.

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