Samoa’s Health Ministry Issues Warning as New Zealand Confirms Measles Cases

"We are making good progress however we are mindful that there are still children who may have not received their MMR vaccinations"

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The Director General of Health, Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma has issued a formal press release calling on parents to ensure children are up to date with Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) immunisations.

“The Ministry of Health continues to advise parents and guardians to bring all unvaccinated children especially children under five-years of age to be vaccinated against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR),” reads the statement.

Aiono says New Zealand has recently confirmed measles cases, and is coordinating their health response to contain these cases.

“In light of this situation, the Ministry of Health again appeals urgently to the public to take this matter seriously,” warns Samoa’s Director General of Health.

“Children need two doses of the MMR vaccine to be considered protected and should be immunised at the age of 9 months and 15 months.”

Parents who are unsure of their child’s immunisation status or do not have their child’s immunisation record, are asked to please visit a health facility nearby or call the EPI Unit at the Ministry of Health on phone number 66693 for more information.

“The Ministry of Health Samoa continues to advocate and conduct outreaches to villages where MMR vaccination coverage is low, as well as appealing to the general public to ensure that all children are fully vaccinated,” says Aiono.

“We are making good progress however we are mindful that there are still children who may have not received their MMR vaccinations..

“The Ministry urgently appeals to parents and guardians in the Apia and North West Upolu as well as South East Upolu areas where coverage is low to bring all unvaccinated children to be vaccinated at the nearest health centre.”

Samoa’s Measles Epidemic

The 2019 Samoa measles outbreak began in September 2019. As of 6 January 2020, there were over 5,700 cases of measles and 83 recorded deaths, although many more children and babies are said to have gone undetected and under reported.

The cause of the outbreak was attributed to decreased vaccination rates, from 74% in 2017 to around 30% in 2018. Nearby Fiji and Tonga were unaffected with vaccination rates near 99%.

What is Measles?

You risk getting measles if you are not vaccinated and have Vitamin A deficiency. Getting vaccinated with the MMR vaccine protects you from getting measles, mumps and rubella.

Signs and Symptoms of Measles:

Signs and symptoms of measles include fever, dry cough, redness or swelling in eyes or eyelids or watery eyes; sensitivity to light; runny nose, sneezing, reddish-brown rash that starts from the head and spreads throughout the whole body; feeling of tiredness and body aches, and loss of appetite. Seek medical attention immediately if anyone in your household has these symptoms.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.

Common complications from measles include ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss or permanent deafness; diarrhoea; swelling in the brain, which can lead to intellectual disability; and pneumonia; which is the most common cause of death due to measles.

The Ministry of Health urges the public especially parents to vaccinate their children against measles and ensure that all other vaccines due for their age are up to date and completed to protect from other diseases.

For more information, please contact the EPI team on 66693 or Public Health on 66600.

(685) 68100 enquiries@health.gov.ws (685) 66600 www.health.gov.ws