9 Dec 2019

Samoa's measles death toll rises to 70

6:00 pm on 9 December 2019

The death toll from Samoa's measles epidemic has reached 70, with two deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.

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Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

It's the 13th day the death toll has risen, and 61 of the dead are children aged four years or younger.

Samoa's government said on Sunday it had vaccinated around 90 percent of the population.

Still, in the past 24 hours there were another 112 recorded measles' cases, bringing the total to nearly 4700.

Meanwhile, 159 people remain in hospital, including 16 critically ill children.

The measles vaccine can take about two weeks to provide immunity to the disease.

The government ordered a shutdown of the nation on Thursday and Friday to try to cope with the epidemic.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said more than 20,000 vaccines were administered over the space of the two-day lockdown designed to stem the tide of the deadly measles epidemic, with vaccination teams visiting households to administer shots.

NZ sending coffins

At the request of the Pasifika community in New Zealand, Rotorua charity the Kiwi Coffin Club is sending 24 coffins to Samoa on Wednesday.

Trustee Ron Wattam said the most of the coffins were built for children aged 6 to 12, but some adult coffins were also being sent.

"We are here to help the underpriveleged and the children who are in desparate need. No one likes to see their child buried without a coffin," he said.

He added that it was the first time the charity had come to another country's aid.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, Tokelau and the Cook Islands confirmed on Monday measles had yet to reach their shores.

In Tokelau, one atoll is quarantining all incoming passengers for 10 days to screen for measles.

The Cook Islands Health Secretary, Josephine Aumea Herman, is warning travelers over the holiday period to make sure they're immunised.

"There's a good chance that some have come without us knowing," she said, adding she was confident the Cook Islands could contain an outbreak because of its strong herd immunity.

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