19 Nov 2019

Samoan family loses third child to measles epidemic

5:00 pm on 19 November 2019

A family in Samoa has lost their third child to the measles epidemic, as the country's death toll continues to rise.

The father Tu'ivale Luamanuvae of Lauli'i Village beside the grave of his three children who died of measles

Tu'ivale Luamanuvae beside the graves of his three children who died of measles. Photo: RNZ Pacific /Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Tu'ivale Luamanuvae's third child was buried today in the village of Lauli'i.

The father of five has lost his one-year-old twins and two-year-old son.

Sixteen children have now died in the Samoa measles epidemic, the government said, with the latest death a 7-month-old child from Savai'i.

In the village of Toamua, a family will bury their three-year-old boy tomorrow after he died from measles on Saturday at the national hospital.

Meki Tavita said his son had one more vaccination still to be done before he fell sick on Monday last week.

He said the child was taken to a local healer, and spiritual healing was sought from a nearby church, after which he was taken to the hospital, where he died.

The other family members had now all been vaccinated amid concerns they were showing measles symptoms.

Samoa declared a state of emergency on Friday, making measles vaccinations mandatory and banning public gatherings involving children.

New Zealand is sending medical staff, vaccines and supplies to Samoa.

The government on Tuesday said a total of 1,174 cases of measles had been reported, with another 114 recorded since Monday. Approximately 98 percent of those cases were on Upolu, mostly concentrated around the Vaimauga West and Faleata West districts.

Ninety-two percent of cases were children under the age of five, the government said. In total, 189 people had been admitted to hospital in total.

Meanwhile, Tokelau is to tighten immigration rules in a bid to stop measles from reaching the territory.

Tokelau is only reachable by boat from Samoa.

The territory has been screening every passenger disembarking in the atolls for measles and has so far found no sign of the disease.

But from 26 November, Tokelau's Health Department will require all passengers to show proof of vaccination before boarding the ferry in Apia.

The vaccinations will have to be administered at least two weeks in advance of the departure date, the Health Department said.

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