Samoa shuts down gov­ern­ment to fight deadly measles out­break

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Brian Deer in Apia, Samoa

SAMOA has or­dered a com­plete gov­ern­ment shut­down to re­de­ploy pub­lic work­ers in the fight against measles, in the most dra­matic re­sponse yet to a wave of out­breaks that have swept much of the world in 2019.

With 53 dead, and nearly 4,000 re­ported cases, Tuilaepa Sailele Maliel­e­gaoi, prime min­is­ter of the tiny South Pa­cific nation, yes­ter­day is­sued an emo­tional state­ment urg­ing par­ents to bring chil­dren with signs of ill­ness to hos­pi­tal, and ask­ing all 200,000 cit­i­zens to come for­ward for pro­tec­tion.

“Seek med­i­cal care for sick chil­dren early, en­sure fam­ily mem­bers, es­pe­cially chil­dren, are vac­ci­nated and main­tain good hy­giene stan­dards,” he urged.

Pub­lic health agen­cies have been stunned by the scale and speed of the Samoan out­break, as measles – once headed for global erad­i­ca­tion – has swept through the is­land 3,600 miles west of Aus­tralia.

The out­break has been blamed on plum­met­ing vac­ci­na­tion rates on the is­land, sparked by the death of two chil­dren af­ter they re­ceived a measles jab that had been in­cor­rectly ad­min­is­tered. In 2015, more than 80 per cent of chil­dren had been vac­ci­nated, com­pared with just 34 per cent last year.

With the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion co­or­di­nat­ing an un­prece­dented emer­gency re­sponse to the out­break, equip­ment and staff, es­pe­cially from Aus­tralia and New Zealand, have been air­lifted to the is­lands. A Bri­tish team flew in at the week­end.

“I would again call on ev­ery­one’s co­op­er­a­tion to pro­tect our chil­dren. Vac­ci­na­tion is the only cure ... no tra­di­tional heal­ers or kan­gen (al­ka­line) wa­ter prepa­ra­tions can cure measles,” said Mr Maliel­e­gaoi in a na­tional ad­dress.

“Let us not be dis­tracted by the prom­ise of al­ter­na­tive cures.”

The Samoan measles out­break started in Oc­to­ber and a state of emer­gency was de­clared in mid-novem­ber, with schools closed and chil­dren banned from pub­lic gath­er­ings, such as church ser­vices, to min­imise the risk of con­ta­gion.

Nearly 200 chil­dren have been ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal and at least 21 are in in­ten­sive care with com­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing pneu­mo­nia.

In­fants and young chil­dren are most vul­ner­a­ble. Of the 53 fa­tal­i­ties re­ported to date, 48 were aged four or less.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.