Measles death toll on the rise
Wellington – The death toll from a measles epidemic in Samoa edged up to 33 yesterday, as experts expressed hope the outbreak in the Pacific island nation was close to “burning itself out”.
Official government figures showed there had been one additional fatality since Tuesday, although the number of new measles cases climbed by 249 to 2 686 over the same period.
University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said Samoa’s 200 000 population offered a finite pool for the virus to spread and a compulsory immunisation programme should help limit it.
“Without intervention the epidemic will run a natural course and ultimately burn itself out,” she said.
“Given the mass vaccination campaign now under way, it is possible that the epidemic will peak this week or next then begin to decline.”
Petousis-Harris said restrictions on public gatherings, which the government introduced in tandem with its vaccination programme, would also help.
The outbreak has been exacerbated by low immunisation rates in the island nation.