UK, NZ send medics to Samoa as measles outbreak kills 42

2019 image from video children with parents wait in line to get vaccinated outside a health clinic in Apia Samoa

The rising death toll claimed by Measles epidemic from October left the Samoan state in a dilemma, which henceforth compelled the Samoan Government to declare state of emergency on 16 November, 2019.

Factfile on measles, a highly contagious disease. As the illness progresses, a red-brown rash will spread across the skin, which usually starts on the head or neck.

In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.

And, Samoa is included in the CDC's global measles Travel Alert. The total number of measles cases was 2,437. Samoan hospitals have seen 679 people admitted, which makes up two-thirds of all recent hospital admissions. Most of the 176 now hospitalised patients are children, some of them critically ill in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

This has been an explosive year for measles, with cases jumping 300% worldwide during the first three months of the year, including major outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, Ukraine, the Philippines, as well as in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.

Andrea Chapman, a Kiwi nurses, said in a statement published on November 27th "We're educating people that the vaccination takes 14 days until it is fully effective".

Executive Director of UNICEF New Zealand says the organisation is responding to the desperate need in Samoa "This feels personal for Kiwis, our two nations are bound together on many levels".

The ICU specialists and medical supplies announced today are in addition to the nurse vaccinators, New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT), and medical supplies that New Zealand has already committed to the response. "Although people are being vaccinated, the measles outbreak has the potential to get worse".

The Samoan government has scrambled to vaccinate a quarter of the population (57,000 out of 200,000) since the outbreak began.

"Any person that actively discourages or prevents in any way members of the community from receiving their vaccination injection, is hereby warned, to cease immediately, and is similarly warned not to take any further action of that kind".

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, together with Caritas Australia and Catholic Relief Services, are sending a solidarity grant to Caritas Samoa to assist them in their work. A large number of vaccinations are being sent from Europe to the Pacific islands, Fiji in particular, to help increase the vaccination rates.

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