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Samoa measles death toll rises to 32

Another seven die in Samoa measles outbreak bringing the total to 32 as officials scramble to vaccinate EVERYONE on the islands

  • Measles is spreading quickly because only two thirds of people are vaccinated 
  • Virus can cause deadly brain swelling or pneumonia and be deadly for children
  • About 57,000 out of 200,000 people in Samoa have had a jab since the outbreak

The death toll of a killer measles outbreak in Samoa has risen to 32 from 25 yesterday, with 28 of the dead aged under four and most of them babies. 

Low vaccination rates on the Pacific islands have allowed the disease to spread rapidly and affect more than 2,400 people in a matter of weeks.

The government there has closed schools and banned children from public gatherings, and is ordering everyone to get vaccinated.

It says it has given more than a quarter of the population (57,000 out of 200,000) the jab since the outbreak began but more work must be done.

Yesterday a government official said the outbreak was ‘a big problem’ for the island.

Measles has been largely wiped out in developed countries like the US and UK thanks to national vaccination programs, but it is deadly and spreads extremely fast in areas where people haven’t had the jab. 

Almost 60,000 people in Samoa have had the measles vaccine since the outbreak began but the government says more work must be done to make sure the entire population of 200,000 people is covered (stock image) 

According to government figures, 28 of the dead are children aged four or under and the total number of measles cases is now 2,437.

Samoa has declared a state of emergency but overstretched medical services are struggling to contain the outbreak.

The spread of the viral illness has been exacerbated by the country’s low vaccination rates – only around two in every three people are protected.

The number of cases has risen five-fold in the past week and fatalities have more than tripled.  

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi said every citizen needed to be vaccinated.

‘We have come a long way in a matter of days but there is more to done,’ he said on Monday.

‘We cannot afford to relax our response until everyone is vaccinated.’

Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.

Schools and kindergartens have been closed and children have been banned from public gatherings, such as church services, to minimise the risk of contagion.

WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an infected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.

Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.

The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading. 

Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.

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

Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious. 

‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain. 

‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’

Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.

Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital 

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